New briefing unpicks 'Ecological Progress': the foundation for China’s low carbon development

Reading time: 4 minutes
13 March 2015

BEIJING: On the heels of the National People's Congress in China The Climate Group has released the latest in our Insight Briefing series, which explores China's 'Ecological Progress' concept, the government's sustainable development framework to curb the country's record levels of pollution, consumption and resource imports. 

This time next year, China will release its 13th Five Year Plan – the crucial blueprint that will guide the country’s economic and political progress from 2016 to 2020.

As China becomes the world’s largest economy, this plan will clearly have a global impact. But for the first time, this master plan will also be guided by the concept of ‘Ecological Progress’ – the Chinese government’s unique and evolving framing concept for sustainable development, which it is now seeking to put into practice.

Coupled with the fact there is now nine months until the international community announces new UN Sustainable Development Goals and agrees a new global climate deal, China’s low carbon ambition is more important than ever.

Based on the views and research of leading Chinese academics, our new briefing explores the government's Ecological Progress concept: its origins, development, challenges and potential implications for the country’s sustainable development.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, said: "Ecological Progress will fundamentally impact China’s low carbon development. It is a value system for balancing ecosystems while delivering goods and services to support human development. Due to the unfortunate fact that China has failed to manage its ecosystems in a sustainable manner until now, the country today has become overwhelmed by smog, water pollution and soil contamination over the last three decades of rapid economic growth. We cannot possibly afford to carry on like this.

"How Ecological Progress will apply to a global climate deal remains to be seen. But I am confident that China will champion such a value system at a regional and global level when governing our global environment and ecosystems is concerned."

Outlining some challenges to successful adoption, the briefing suggests giving the private sector a greater role to ensure Ecological Progress works, as it will lessen the financial load on government and provide incentives for business to shoulder greater responsibility for China's dangerous pollution levels.

Pollution was a critical topic at the government's annual National People’s Congress event, which concluded hours before this report was released. As well as economic reforms, the country’s worsening environmental problems dominated the meeting from day one, where Premier Li Keqiang promised China will "fight with all our might" to tackle pollution, calling it "blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts." 

The government's flurry of environmental announcements follows mounting public discontent over China's dangerous smog levels, most recently proven by a documentary about pollution which went viral days before the NPC began.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group said the NPC outcomes reinforce China’s continued climate leadership: “Premier Li’s annual work report to the National People’s Congress shall be regarded as ‘well delivered’. One year on after he declared War on Pollution, the outcome is well aligned with the 12th Five-Year Plan targets of reduction of emissions of major pollutants, such as SO2 and NOx. Energy intensity has also decreased 4.8%, the highest ever annual reduction in the last few years.”

Read it now

To explore the outcomes from National People’s Congress and discuss how China will deliver its promises through Ecological Progress, we hosted a live Twitter Q&A with our China Director Changhua Wu on March 16. Read a summary here.

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