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Thursday, October 29, 2020, 12:15
Green is China's new development mantra
By James P. Lynch
Thursday, October 29, 2020, 12:15 By James P. Lynch


Like many countries, China plans its national development within structured, time-bound plans, which includes a series of rolling five-year plans that map out key objectives to support the people, the environment, and economic development. China is currently approaching the end of its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) which, among its achievements, advanced environmental protection and the transition to green development.

Under the 13th Five-Year Plan, new and major targets were introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, address air pollution, and reverse biodiversity loss and degradation. In 2018, the concept of "ecological civilization", first encapsulated under the 13th Five-Year Plan, became enshrined in China's Constitution. Ecological civilization prioritizes an innovative, green and shared approach to development.

China has become a world leader in promoting green finance through the issuance of green bonds, green lending, green insurance and creating markets for pollution control rights. Recent ADB projects in China have incorporated green finance for watertreatment plants,sponge cities,intelligent transport systemsand waste recycling facilities

The 13th Five-Year Plan has translated this concept into practice in rural areas, where agriculture, farmers and rural communities have become the focus of inclusive and multisector development efforts to reduce poverty and inequality and improve food security. Ecological civilization is also providing the impetus to link the protection of natural ecosystems to livelihood opportunities for remote communities, with eco-tourism being a prime example. The past five years have also seen an improvement in economic, social and environmental welfare in rural areas across China.

China is preparing the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world. By highlighting the interconnection among human, animal and environmental health, the pandemic provides an unexpected opportunity for the drafters of the 14th Five-Year Plan to focus on green development. In planning for a post-COVID-19 economic recovery, the 14th Five-Year Plan can underscore the need for high-quality, green and nature-positive approach to development.

In fact, China's recent announcement to become carbon neutral by 2060 is proof that the 14th Five-Year Plan will emphasize environmental protection and sustainable growth.

The Asian Development Bank is preparing its country partnership strategy for China for the 2021-25 period, which is focused on supporting China's transition toward eco-friendly and nature-positive development. The key areas of partnership under the country positive strategy include environmentally sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and health security. Over the next five years, the ADB and China will work together to support higher-quality, green development under the 14th Five-Year Plan in three areas:

First, the environment will be the cornerstone of our partnership in supporting two large sub-regional development programs, the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Yellow River Ecological Corridor. These programs collectively support the regions of highest economic output in China. Since the regions are also unique in terms of their biodiversity, by placing an economic value on these natural resources, natural capital accounting and eco-compensation schemes will be expanded to ensure more sustainable development of the regions and the local communities.

Second, we will work together to further incorporate climate adaptation and mitigation measures into planning and investments across multiple sectors. Urban development will increasingly emphasize low-carbon, green cities with sustainable transport, smart buildings and clean, renewable sources of energy. And rural vitalization programs will include support for climate-smart agriculture, more resilient food supply chains and greater focus on disaster risk management.

Third, the ADB and China will continue to expand the use of green finance to support development projects. China has become a world leader in promoting green finance through the issuance of green bonds, green lending, green insurance and creating markets for pollution control rights. Recent ADB projects in China have incorporated green finance for water treatment plants, sponge cities, intelligent transport systems and waste recycling facilities.

Ecological civilization will be the theme of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity scheduled for May 2021 in China. Since the conference will include the launch of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and a new 10-year plan to 2030 to guide global action to protect the environment and support livelihoods, it will provide China with a global platform to highlight its own environmental achievements, and launch a number of new green initiatives under the 14th Five-Year Plan.

China has made good progress on the higher-quality green development front, and the ADB looks forward to continuing its partnership under the 14th Five-Year Plan to realize a more sustainable future for the people in China, as well of those across Asia and the Pacific.

The author is director-general of the East Asia Department, Asian Development Bank.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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