China in strong position to share expertise, makes decisive contributions to the battle against climate change: UNDP representative in China

Global Times, By Cao Siqi and Zhao Yusha – Published: Nov 12, 2021

China and the US released on Thursday a joint declaration on tackling climate change during the ongoing 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the UK. In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Beate Trankmann, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, said that China is in a strong position to share its expertise and makes decisive contributions to the global fight against climate change. She also called for global cooperation as climate change is not an issue that any one country can deal with in isolation. 

“China’s pledge to step up support to other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy while ceasing to build new coal powerplants abroad, as well as its decision to establish a new 1.5-billion-yuan fund to support biodiversity protection in developing countries are critical commitments,” Trankmann told the Global Times on Thursday. 

According to Trankmann, UNDP has carried out in-depth cooperation with China for decades in the country’s transition to green pathways. For example, UNDP has partnered with the National Development and Reform Commission to transform the lighting industry in China and make it greener, by phasing out incandescent bulbs and replacing them with energy efficient LEDs. The organization has also worked to enhance energy efficiency in public buildings with the application of energy efficient technologies and energy conservation practices. As a result, cumulative CO2 emissions from public buildings have been reduced by 55,700 tons and their annual growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions decreased from 1.8 to 0.6 percent.

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In addition, UNDP has supported the commercialization of hydrogen-based clean energy transportation solutions, helping to establish Fuel Cell Vehicle demonstration sites in 8 cities throughout China and a hydrogen vocational training program for the future of renewable jobs.

On biodiversity protection, UNDP and China have also achieved important results. For example, through new mapping and enforcement measures, China’s fully protected terrestrial areas have expanded to 2.4 million square kilometers, about a quarter of its land mass.

They have also worked to incorporate biodiversity protection measures within government policies, regulations, programs and planning. For instance, the UNDP and Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects helped to form the National Wetland Conservation and Recovery Schemes in 2016 and supported 31 provinces in preparing corresponding implementation plans. 

Between 2013-2019, UNDP and GEF helped expand biodiversity conservation by widening coverage of Protected Areas (PAs), including 1.9 million new hectares of protected wetlands, one of the world’s most critical ecosystems. By the end of 2019, China’s wetlands spanned 53.6 million hectares, with 52 percent protected. 

In 2021, UNDP’s global Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) expanded to China as part of its international efforts to multiply resources for conservation and improve their effectiveness. Working with over 40 countries, BIOFIN aims to show how biodiversity finance can work both for people and the planet. Its launch in China combines biodiversity protection efforts in Shandong Province with the financial innovations of Shanghai, furthering China’s significant contributions to green finance. 

In the global fight against climate change, Trankmann said China’s announcement to stop financing coal powerplants overseas, peak carbon emissions before 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2060, have been critically important commitments. The Chinese government has demonstrated strong political resolve to meet these both in the 14th Five-Year Plan and the recently released 1+N strategy. 

“Two key policy documents, the Guidance for Carbon Peaking and Carbon Neutrality and Action Plan for Carbon Peaking, offer a concrete roadmap to achieving the climate goals and put forward emissions targets for key sectors including steel, energy, and transport,” she said. 

In the representative’s eyes, China’s commitment to green development has manifested itself in some key actions in recent years, including the establishment of a national emissions trading system, the largest in the world. In addition, Chinese financial institutions like the ICBC, the largest bank by assets in the world, have joined the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures in alignment with international best practices.

Drawing on the commitments and plans put forward, Trankmann mentioned that China has the opportunity to further accelerate its actions toward carbon peaking and neutrality to keep the target of 1.5 degrees warming within reach. 

The goal requires peaking emissions well before 2030 and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, particularly coal, as early as possible. China’s current energy supply composition is still heavily reliant on coal, but the situation is changing. China has already accounted for nearly a third of global renewable energy installed capacity and aims to reach 50 percent of non-fossil energy share in its power generation by 2030. 

An investment in future

Trankmann said climate change is an issue that transcends national borders and requires international cooperation and decisive action.

“Since 2015, the world has failed to raise the annual $100 billion promised to developing countries to address climate change under the Paris Agreement. The problem is, however, not a shortage of capital but rather where capital is being directed,” Trankmann said. 

Countries need to further work together, share insights and approach issues with joint action and resolve such as boosting innovation, development and technology transfer, channeling investment and funding towards low-carbon, nature-positive projects.

As for some people’s question on if the goals are going to transform or slow China’s momentum of rapid economic development, Trankmann said that “we must recognize that this is an investment in the future. Indeed, investing in green pathways actually makes economic sense and offers substantive growth potential in new areas.” 

According to the 2021 Global Risks Report, many businesses see the consequences of environmental degradation, such as extreme weather events and biodiversity loss, as some of the top risks to their continuity and profitability.

“Ultimately, in the long run, the costs and risks associated with climate change are infinitely greater than the costs of addressing it,” Trankmann remarked. 

SOURCE: Global Times