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China's Historic Achievements in the Eco-environmental Field

By Qiu Ping Source: Updated: 2023-07-07

From the overall strategic perspectives of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has put eco-environmental progress a priority for our Party and the country since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. It has launched a series of creative, forward-thinking, and fundamentally important initiatives and made comprehensive efforts across the areas of theory, law, institutions, organization, and conduct to strengthen environmental protection in all fields, regions, and processes. This has led to historic, transformational, and comprehensive changes to the theory and action of ecological conservation in China. In addition to achieving the universally rare combination of rapid economic development and long-term social stability, China has achieved an internationally acclaimed environmental miracle.

The concept of eco-environmental protection has been embraced by the Chinese people. General Secretary Xi has devoted painstaking efforts to eco-environmental protection and has personally participated in its planning and implementation. From mountains to lakes and rivers, from desert oases to forests and snowfields, he has travelled the length and breadth of China to explain the concept of making eco-environmental progress and answer key theoretical and practical questions, such as why and how to achieve ecological conservation, as well as what kind of eco-environment to achieve. Taken together, these ideas constitute Xi Jinping's thought on eco-environmental protection. The importance of making eco-environmental progress to the overall cause of the Party and the country has significantly increased. Eco-environmental protection is one of the areas of focus of the five-sphere integrated plan (the others being economic, political, cultural, and social development); maintaining the harmonious coexistence of human and nature has been identified as a basic principle that underpins our endeavors to uphold and develop Chinese socialism in the new era; green development has become an integral part of China's new development philosophy; the prevention and control of pollution has been designated one of the "three critical battles" along with forestalling and diffusing major risks and carrying out targeted poverty alleviation; and building a more beautiful China has been designated an objective for creating a strong and modern socialist country by the middle of this century. Consequently, the consciousness and initiative of the whole Party and the entire country regarding the promotion of green development have significantly improved, the idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets has become a consensus that is driving action of the Party and throughout society, and there is a growing trend toward leading a modest, environmentally friendly, and healthy lifestyle.

Progress in green and low-carbon development is accelerating. All regions and departments are fully and faithfully applying the new development philosophy and incorporating reaching peak carbon emissions and achieving carbon neutrality into overall arrangements for ecological conservation and overall economic and social development. They are also setting minimum standards for environmental protection and quality as well as upper limits on resource utilization, and promoting spatial patterns, industrial structures, production methods, and lifestyles that conserve resources and protect the environment. As a result, green development is increasingly the foundation of high-quality economic and social development. In 2021, China ranked first in the world for renewable energy exploitation and utilization as well as production and sales of new energy vehicles, and it launched the world's largest carbon market. By the end of 2020, China's CO2 emissions per unit of GDP had fallen by 48.4% compared to 2005, exceeding the target of 40%-45%. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was the first carbon-neutral winter games in Olympic history, with more than a thousand hydrogen-powered buses travelling between venues which were all powered by 100% clean energy and meeting green building standards, demonstrating China's firm commitment to and solid progress in transitioning toward green and low-carbon development.

China's environment has improved significantly. In 2021, the national average concentration of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in cities at and above the prefecture level was down 34.8% compared with 2015, and the proportion of surface water throughout the country meeting Grade I-III quality standards increased to 84.9%. The rates of safe utilization of contaminated arable land and sites were both above 90% for the country as a whole. A complete ban has been instituted on foreign garbage entering China, which has successfully achieved the goal of zero imports of solid waste and put an end to developed countries using China as a garbage dump. Efforts to safeguard our eco-environmental security are continuously being consolidated, and environmental emergencies are being handled appropriately. China's nuclear facilities have a good safety record, and radiation accidents are at their lowest level in history. We are implementing integrated protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grasslands, and deserts, forest cover has reached 23.04%, and the first group of national parks has been established. Achievements including the trunk stream of the Yangtze River reaching the Grade II quality standard, changing the conservation status of giant pandas from "endangered" to "vulnerable," and the northward migration and subsequent return of Asian elephants from Yunnan Province are all a testament to China's remarkable progress in environmental protection.

China's institutional framework for eco-environmental protection has improved. China views furthering reform of the system of eco-environmental protection as a vital element of continued reform of, and upholding and improving, Chinese socialism, and it is striving to build a complete institutional framework for eco-environmental protection. We have established sound systems for the assessment and accountability of objectives related to eco-environmental protection and compensating localities for prioritizing ecological conservation. We have appointed river, lake, and forest chiefs, made both Party committees and government agencies responsible for environmental protection, and made all officials assume responsibility for environmental protection in addition to their prescribed duties. The government has formulated and revised more than 30 laws and administrative regulations related to the environment, including the Environmental Protection Law. It is also continuing the reform of the vertical management of monitoring, supervision, and enforcement activities of environmental protection agencies below the provincial level as well as of comprehensive administrative law enforcement for environmental protection, to guide eco-environmental protection. Since the launch of a pilot project on central inspections of environmental protection in 2015, there have been two rounds of inspections covering 31 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, as well as inspections of six enterprises managed by the central government and two relevant departments of the State Council. Major and representative cases of environmental damage have been resolutely investigated and dealt with, and prominent environmental issues of deep concern to the people have been resolved.

China has become more involved in global environmental governance. China is committed to multilateralism and is striving to build a fair and equitable system of global environmental governance featuring mutually beneficial cooperation. China encouraged the signing, entry into force, and implementation of the Paris Agreement. We have announced our intentions to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and to no longer build new coal-fired power stations overseas, demonstrating our willingness to assume the responsibilities of a major country. We successfully held the first part of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15), opening a new chapter in global biodiversity governance. China is promoting environmental protection in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and advocating an international alliance for green development among Belt and Road countries as well as the establishment of a big data platform for BRI environmental protection. China is also engaging in South-South cooperation to help developing countries improve their environmental governance and standards of living and wellbeing. In 2013, the governing council of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) adopted a draft decision on promoting China's concept of ecological civilization. In 2016, UNEP released the report "Green is Gold: The Strategy and Actions of China's Ecological Civilization." The theme of COP-15 in 2021 was "Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth," making it the first global conference of the UN to adopt the theme of ecological civilization. All of this demonstrates that Xi Jinping's thought on eco-environmental protection has received a positive response and widespread recognition from the international community.