Environment for Development

By Jiang Nanqing
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, October 19, 2015
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Accompanying unprecedented economic growth, a booming population, industrialization, and urbanization over the last few decades, China faces mounting environmental pressure. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, and unsustainable use of land, as well as global issues like energy, food, and water scarcity, hinder the country from reaching its poverty alleviation and sustainable development target. Therefore, the environment is one of the key areas of cooperation between China and the UN.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), founded in 1972 with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, is the leading global environmental agency within the UN. Prior to the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) held in 2014, the 58-member governing body was reformed to universal membership (to include the full 193 member states of the UN), reinforcing the status and role of the UNEP.

In September 2003, the UNEP opened a liaison country office in Beijing – one of a handful of its kind. This move highlighted China's important status in dealing with global environmental issues, and promoted further cooperation between the UNEP and China.

Jiang Nanqing, the author, was judge at the youth contest "Solve for Tomorrow"in 2015.

Close Cooperation

During the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, China vowed to give high priority to ecological progress and incorporating it into building a beautiful country. It hence set the goal of sustainable development in line with the global trend.

"China admits it needs to rethink the role of the environment and that of its environmental sustainability dimension in future economic development," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UNEP and under-secretary-general of the UN. He interpreted the notion of ecological progress in two respects: First, shifting to a green economy model doesn't entail a totally different mode of development; second, the rising cost of pollution abatement is increasingly affecting economic development.

Since the Chinese government signaled the economic transformation, UNEP has propelled policymaking in such fields as the environment, climate change, and sci& tech through strategic partnership with the central and local governments. It also provided technical assistance to incorporating environmental issues into national strategy, facilitating implementation of a group of projects on issues from climate change, pollution abatement, and management of chemical materials, to resource efficiency, biodiversity and ecosystem protection, green economy, and South-South Cooperation.

Currently, the UNEP closely collaborates with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and influential departments in other fields like the People's Bank of China. It also conducts full-scale cooperation with the municipal governments of Beijing, Guiyang, and Tianjin, research organs like the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and of course, the private sector. The UNEP has co-founded or sponsored an array of projects like the UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development in 2002, the UNEP International Ecosystem Management Partnership in 2011, and the Global Efficient Lighting Center in 2012. All have become UNEP resource centers in China.

As an implementing agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world's largest public funder of environmental projects, the UNEP plays a key role in supporting countries to develop and execute GEF projects. In China, such projects cover a wide range of issues from climate change, biodiversity, and land deterioration, to trans-boundary waters and chemicals management.

The Chinese government is attaching increasing importance to high-level think tanks and their suggestions. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner serves as vice chairperson of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). He has offered advice on China's 13th Five-year Plan and sustainable development strategy. Steiner believes that the environmental issue shouldn't be segregated from other issues in China, as it is a systemic and long-term issue concerning economic development. As vice chairperson of the CCICED, he said he would assist international environmental specialists, Chinese experts and the government in discussing and researching China's environmental and development issues. He hoped to help test current environment policies in China to see if they are on the right ecological development track.

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