Amid the ongoing 2019 U.N. Climate Change Conference which began in early December in Madrid, a serious revisiting of China's achievements over the past decade has been taking place. This was promptly followed by an even more crucial outlook of its upcoming goals for the next decade.
China has showed its strong commitment to resolving the issues associated with environmental impact by claiming a "war on pollution" in 2014. Its many pledges to date are widely recognized as more than just empty promises and over the past five years, China has made incredible transformations to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.
An examination of China's Progress Report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development shows that it has achieved favorable outcomes. The goals it set forth in previous climate-related summits such as the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol and U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change have also been met ahead of schedule. China has already accomplished the majority of its 2015 nationally determined contributions (NDC) goals – its 2020 target to reduce carbon intensity by 40-45% from its 2005 level was reached three years ahead of schedule in 2017. NASA satellite data recorded earlier this year found a 5% increase in the world's total green area, and at least 25% of this gain was attributed to China.
China's role as the world leader in taking action to deal with climate change has been widely recognized in recent years. Despite the challenges ahead, China has done a lot to deal with the issue, with its investment in renewable energy now accounting for 61% of the total investment by developing countries. Currently, China's capacity in renewable power production is almost double that of the U.S., and far surpasses the rest of the BRICS countries.
Michael Baldinger, an official representing the Swiss financial institution UBS, noted the admirable results of China's continued dedication to stay on track, claiming "no other country has come close to matching China's dominance in transitioning to a low carbon economy." In 2017, 85 mega-power coal plants were dismantled – the biggest closure globally to date. This was followed by a 2.5 trillion-yuan investment pledge into renewable power generation by 2020, which was largely due to the strong efforts of China's environment ministry. As a result, China is now the largest manufacturer of wind-turbines and lithium ion batteries – two crucial elements to becoming a green-energy-based economy. New legislation has also placed strict restrictions on energy-intensive industries in an effort to assist the integration of renewable energy. Polluters found to be in breach of the newly-set standards for harmful emissions now face strict penalties.
Subsidies offered by authorities to Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers have also allowed for the development of a sustainable EV-based auto-industry, as part of China's hope to become "the Detroit of electric cars." Joint efforts are now taking place across industries, and even spilling over to China's tech giants. The world's largest ride-hailing service – Didi Chuxing – was the first to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon, initiating partnerships with 12 Chinese and international electric carmakers, and aiming to set the standard for a more sustainable ride-sharing experience.
These nation-wide, future-oriented developments are very reassuring indicators. Public participation is also beginning to be strongly monitored and issues such as trash sorting are now being enforced more strictly due to unsatisfactory results in previous years. Hefty fines and lowered social-credit for citizens who don't follow the new trash sorting rules are part of the new regulations already being enforced in first-tier cities, and are expected to be implemented in 46 major cities next year.
The UN Environment Program's Executive Director Inger Anderson addressed China's success in demonstrating climate leadership, and is "pleased to see China taking an active role in promoting this approach." China's efforts in transitioning and maintaining the global standard for active participation and commitment to global climate governance will hopefully raise the bar for the rest of the world, and lead to a sustainable green future.
Itamar Manes is an Israeli freelancer based in Dalian, China.