‘Lucid waters’ idea becomes role model for balancing economy, environment
Fifteen Years ago, when Xi Jinping was secretary of the Communist Party of China Zhejiang Provincial Committee, he proposed the concept of “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets” during a visit to Yucun village in the province’s Anji county.
The idea reflects Xi’s governance philosophy in pursuing the synergy between economic development and environmental protection. It was developed after Xi became the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012, and has been translated into the practice of the building of an ecological civilization as part of the country’s development strategy.
Dechen Tsering, United Nations Environment Program regional director and representative for Asia and the Pacific, said the balance between economic development and protection of ecosystems is not easy to achieve, but the aspiration of the “ecological civilization” that Xi advocates is to accomplish exactly this.
“China has done a lot of very important work on environmental issues to realize this ambition, and that’s positive leadership the world can take inspiration from,” Tsering said. “Especially at a time when we are dealing with environmental issues on all fronts－from climate change to pollution to biodiversity loss－we need countries like China to … lead the international community in striking strong agreements that protect nature.”
As a significant part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Xi’s vision on building an ecological civilization calls for putting conservation and protection first to ensure the harmony between human and nature, and sticking to innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. It also regards a sound environment as the most inclusive benefit to people’s well-being.
When President Xi returned to Yucun during an inspection tour of Zhejiang province in March, he again underlined the fundamental importance of ecological conservation in the country’s sustainable development. He said that “the environment itself means the economy. If you protect the environment, you will receive rewards from the environment”.
Under the guidance of Xi’s Thought on ecological civilization, China has started to conduct central environmental inspections and has carried out guidelines to control air, water and soil pollution, published its own plans to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is implementing a national plan to tackle climate change.
Speaking at a national conference on environmental protection in May 2018, Xi said that with the Chinese economy transitioning from high-speed growth to high-quality development, the building of ecological civilization has entered a critical period－a period that requires more quality ecological goods to meet people’s ever-growing demand for a beautiful environment and at a time when China is capable of addressing prominent environmental issues.
Tsering said that the Secretariat of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development has sought UNEP’s input on China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).”UNEP has worked closely with China to achieve ecological protection,” she said.
“Our recommendations focus on building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, which means increasing sustainable infrastructure, fostering sustainable consumption and production, greening supply chains, improving access to green finance and tackling climate change and air pollution.”
China has said it considers the climate change fight strategically important for high-quality sustainable development at the forefront of building a community with a shared future for mankind. Policies and actions it already has taken have achieved remarkable results. China’s GDP in 2019 more than quadrupled that in 2005, while carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP were reduced by 48.1 percent from 2005, equivalent to a reduction of about 5.62 billion metric tons.
Capacity for leadership
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has commended China’s efforts in fighting climate change, saying China has shown a clear capacity for climate leadership.
“In the past five years, China has deployed more solar and wind capacity than any other country. More than 50 percent of electric vehicles in the world are sold in China. China also makes 99 percent of the world’s electric buses,” the UN chief said in a video speech at an event organized by the Tsinghua University on July 23.
“Like COVID-19, climate change respects no borders. By seizing the mantle of leadership, China can help protect all people who share this planet,” Guterres said.
While striving to strike a balance, the country should be deeply involved in global environmental governance, guide cooperation on climate change issues and work with others to come up with a worldwide solution for environmental protection and sustainable development, according to Xi’s vision on ecological civilization.
“UNEP welcomes China’s support for multilateralism and China’s positive role in global environmental governance and regional cooperation,”Tsering said, adding that by signing and ratifying the most important modern environmental treaties, China sets an example.
The UNEP official mentioned many treaties and agreements in which China plays an active part, including the UN Paris climate agreement, the Montreal Protocol, the Basel and Stockholm conventions, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
She also praised China’s support for other regional environmental cooperation programs, such as environmental cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China-Japan-Republic of Korea environmental cooperation and Lancang-Mekong subregional cooperation.
Initiated by Xi, the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition was established last year to promote cooperation and concerted action for green development on the Belt and Road, to integrate sustainable development into the BRI, and to help BRI participating countries to realize the UN Sustainable Development Goals on development and environment. More than 130 Chinese and international organizations have joined in the coalition, including UNEP.
Tsering called international cooperation vital. “A global challenge requires global efforts. That’s why multilateralism is the only choice. No one country can do it alone.”
China and UNEP can continue to work together to promote “Green Governance” principles and practices by sharing knowledge and through South-South cooperation, Tsering said. “This is urgent as many countries are trying to quickly develop response and recovery strategies for COVID-19,” she added.
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