Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability
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2011 6th Issue: China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change

Time: 08/24/2011      Source: IEEPA

Global climate change and its adverse effects are a common concern of mankind. Ever since the industrial revolution, human activities, especially the massive consumption of energy and resources by developed countries in the process of industrialization, have increased the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, produced conspicuous impacts on the natural ecosystems of the Earth, and posed severe challenges to the survival and development of human society.

As a developing country with a large population, a relatively low level of economic development, a complex climate and a fragile eco-environment, China is vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, which has brought substantial threats to the natural ecosystems as well as the economic and social development of the country. These threats are particularly pressing in the fields of agriculture and live-stock breeding, forestry, natural ecosystems and water resources, and in coastal and eco-fragile zones. Therefore, China's priority task at present is to adapt itself to climate change. The multiple pressures of developing the economy, eliminating poverty and mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases constitute difficulties for China in its efforts to cope with climate change, since the country is undergoing rapid economic development.

A responsible developing country, China sets great store by climate change issues. Fully aware of the importance and urgency of addressing climate change, following the requirements of the Scientific Out-look on Development, and taking into overall consideration of both economic development and ecological construction, domestic situation and international situation, and present and future, China has formulated and implemented a national plan for coping with climate change, and adopted a series of policies and measures in this regard. China combines the handling of climate change with its execution of its sustainable development strategy, acceleration of building a re-source-conserving and environmental-friendly society and construction of a country of innovation. Taking economic development as the core objective, and placing emphasis on energy conservation, optimization of the energy mix, reinforcement of ecological protection and construction, and scientific and technological progress as backup, China strives to control and mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and continuously enhance the capability of adapting itself to climate change.

China actively participates in worldwide efforts to address climate change, earnestly observes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (hereinafter referred to as the UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, and plays a constructive role in international cooperation in this regard.

I. Climate Change and China's Situation


  The latest scientific research findings show that the average temperature of the Earth's surface has increased by 0.74 degree Celsius over the past century, from 1906 to 2005, and is expected to further rise by 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The rise of global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is mainly caused by the increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, chiefly consisting of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, emitted as a result of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes of land use.

China's temperature rise has basically kept pace with global warming. The latest information released by the China Meteorological Administration shows that the average temperature of the Earth's surface in China has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius over the past century, from 1908 to 2007, and that China experienced 21 warm winters from 1986 to 2007, the latter being the warmest year since the beginning of systematic meteorological observations in 1951. The national distribution of precipitation in the past half century has undergone marked changes, with increases in western and southern China and decreases in most parts of northern and northeastern China. Extreme climate phenomena, such as high temperatures, heavy precipitation and severe droughts, have increased in frequency and intensity. The number of heat waves in summer has grown, and droughts have grown worse in some areas, especially northern China; heavy precipitation has increased in southern China; and the occurrence of snow disasters has risen in western China. In China's coastal zones, the sea surface temperature and sea level have risen by 0.9 degree Celsius and 90 mm, respectively, over the past 30 years.

Scientific research predicts that climate warming trend in China will further intensify; frequency of extreme climate events is likely to wax; uneven distribution of precipitation will be more visible than before and the occurrence of heavy precipitation will increase; drought will expand in scope; and the sea level will rise faster than ever.

The basic conditions of China present the country with great challenges in addressing issues regarding climate change.

A complex climate and a fragile eco-environment determine that China's task of adapting itself to climate change is arduous. China is characterized by a continental monsoon climate, and most parts of China have a wider range of seasonal temperature change compared with other continental areas at the same latitude. Many places in China are cold in winter and hot in summer, and high temperatures generally prevail in the country at large in summer. Precipitation is unevenly distributed in time and space, concentrating in the flood season, and annual precipitation decreases from the southeast coast to the northwest interior. China has a fragile eco-environment, with serious soil erosion and desertification and a forest coverage rate of 18.21 percent, only 62 percent of the world's average. The area of natural wetlands is comparatively small; most grasslands are highly frigid meadows and desert steppes; temperate grasslands in northern China are in danger of de-generation and desertification due to the impacts of drought and deterioration of the eco-environment. With a coastline over 18,000 km long, China is vulnerable to the adverse effects of sea level rises.

A large population and a relatively low level of economy determine that China's development task is a formidable one. The population of the mainland of China reached 1.321 billion at the end of 2007, ac-counting for 20 percent of the world's total. China has a comparatively low level of urbanization, with an urbanization rate of 44.9 percent in 2007, lower than the world's average. The large population also brings huge employment pressure. New urban labor force entrants of 10 mil-lion and above need jobs every year; as the urbanization process moves forward, ten

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