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PAN JIAHUA: Chinese solution contributes to global ecological security

| 2017-11-30
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The 19th CPC National Congress report emphasized a strong commitment to socialist ecological civilization to work to develop a new model of modernization in which humans develop in harmony with nature and to play a part in ensuring global ecological security. A signal but more a promise to the world, it offers the Chinese solution to building a community of common destiny for mankind.
 

 

Though China has demonstrated a great sense of responsibility and shouldered due obligation in global ecological governance, the international community showed misgivings toward the future of China’s ecology. The basic policy and grand blueprint for achieving the second Centenary Goal expounded upon in the 19th CPC National Congress report is a counterblow to the fallacious international perception of China as a threat to the environment .


However, the connotation of global ecological security extends beyond China’s vow to address pollution as a means to improve the living conditions of its people. The concept encompasses global public resources that will have an enormous impact on the future of humanity. The definition of the environment in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes climate change, maritime ecology, forest ecology system and biodiversity, which are generalized as the biological support systems of the “planet,” which refers to the whole ecological system and environment that humans share on the earth on a global scale.


It is clear that to contribute to global ecological security, China faces dual missions domestically and globally, which require more effort from itself than developed countries and other developing countries.


First, improving China’s own environment is the basis for contributing to global ecological security. Failing to sweep the snow from one’s own doorstep while tending to the frost on a neighbor’s roof is no way to address global ecological problems.


Second, direct contributions from China to global ecological security are necessary. Since the 21st century, China has been vigorously developing its wind and solar energy, the installation capacity of which ranks top in the world. This has decreased the carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels. Since 2014, the coal consumption in China has steadily declined. Though oil and natural gas consumption have grown slightly, greenhouse emissions have not increased while the PM2.5 concentration has consistently fallen. Pilot sites for the national park system, such as Three-River-Source National Park in Qinghai Province, the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park in northeast China, and the cross-provincial Giant Panda National Park centered on Sichuan Province protect not only biodiversity shared by humans but also ecology and environment in local areas.


Third, China has long been an active participant, contributor and leader in building the global ecological governance system. It attended the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 and established special agencies for national environmental protection in its low-income development phase when pollution had not yet become social concern. At the 1992 UN conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, China took the lead in ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. It was the first country that proposed sustainable development as a national strategy. More importantly, it is the largest contributor to the enforcement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. In addition, China’s contribution to the negotiation, reach, effectuation and enforcement of the Paris Agreement is widely recognized around the world.


In light of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and its abdication of environmental responsibility, some have said that this is an opportunity for China to take a dominant role in global ecological governance, and that there is a vacuum of leadership in environmental governance due to the United States’ disengagement, Russia’s passivity, the European Union’s sluggishness and the wait-and-see approach of other countries. This interpretation mistakes China’s guiding role for a leading role that is analogous to a helmsman who steers the global trend, which is obviously erroneous.


A guiding role does not imply that China is a hegemon or benefactor. It means that China sets the pace. As the world’s largest developing country, China facilitates South-South cooperation by contributing as much capital as its capacity allows. Faced with insufficient momentum for world economic growth, increasingly wider wealth gap, climate change and other non-traditional threats that pose challenges to humans, China is not a cold onlooker but a proactive contributor.

 

Pan Jiahua is the research fellow and director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.