CPEC & Chinese Green Development Model | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


CPEC & Chinese Green Development Model

MOST recently Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Chinese President Xi for his strong message on World Environment Day, hosted by Pakistan this year.

He also appreciated President Xi’s leadership in combating climate change and biodiversity loss along with his offer to cooperate over ecosystem restoration.

Undoubtedly, China’s transition to a green economy has immense implications for sustainable development both domestically and worldwide due to which the government of Pakistan also desires to further transform China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into a green sustainable model of development. In this context, agricultural development, social development, health, housing collaborations and hydropower generation are inclusively included in CPEC Phase-II in the country.

Green development is one of President Xi Jinping’s top concerns. Right from the beginning he has been advocating China’s comprehensive policies of clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy.

Instead of considering GDP as the core focus of development, the Chinese President Xi has been tending to prioritize environmental protection in his governance philosophy and emphasizing the need to balance economic development and environmental protection.

Previously, China mainly resorted to “end-of-pipe solutions” pollution-control approaches that clean up pollutants at the point where they enter the environment in its environmental governance.

Now it has been shifting to a more systematic approach of reforming the economic development mode by adjusting the structures of industry, energy consumption, transportation and land use.

During its journey towards green China the Chinese government has been launching numerous far-reaching policies mainly 1970-1980 Environmental Protection Laws, 1990s, Sustainable Development Doctrines, 2000-2006, Harmony between Man and Nature, 2003-2012, Scientific Development Strategy, 2007-Present, Ecological Civilization.

Its holistic model of green development has been targeting renewable energy, energy efficiency and industrial production in the last decade.

Its overall strategy aims at a wide range of sectors, encompassing macro-level planning and the mobilisation of various stakeholder groups.

The efforts and society’s push for a more environment-friendly development path have given birth to some unique Chinese concepts and implementation mechanisms.

The current period can be considered as the ‘great leap-forward’ of China’s green economy agenda both conceptually and implementation-wise.

In the conceptual domain, the term ‘ecological civilisation’ first appeared in the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party as part of the process to construct a well-off society.

The concept received unprecedented political attention at the 18th National Congress in 2013 and was injected into the national development process, taking its place next to economic, political, cultural and social construction.

China has made important progress. The prime example is the stimulus package of four trillion RMB, approximately US$586 billion implemented in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

A significant share was earmarked for green investment, facilitating the rapid growth of China’s renewable energy sector and green jobs.

The stimulus package contributed significantly to financing the beginnings of China’s green economy transition.

Most recently, the central government has revised down its economic growth targets and passed a progressive environmental law, reflecting Beijing’s commitment to greening its economy.

According to Chinese authorities (2020), Green Finances have been further increased up to 144 billion CNY by issuing green bonds in the first half of 2019 which was up to 62 percent from the previous years.

Moreover, diversified but integrated policies such as Green Standards, Green Technologies, Factories, Products and last but not the least, Green Mindset have been announced and rigorously implemented throughout China which is now paying its dividends.

Most recently, while addressing the international community through video link Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the international community to work together with unprecedented ambition and action to strive for a fair and reasonable system of global environmental governance featuring win-win cooperation and promote the sustainable development of humanity.

He termed Earth as humanity’s shared home, and a sound ecosystem essential for the prosperity of civilisations.

In the near past, while chairing a high official meeting the Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the strategic importance of green China and termed green mountains and rivers as mountains of silver and gold and called for a new approach to climate governance that highlights green recovery.

As the world’s second-largest economy has entered a phase of high-quality development, green development has become a key component of its new vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.

Critical analysis of the Chinese green policies reveal that in the past 10 years, China has ranked first in the world in increasing forest resources, with its afforestation area exceeding 70 million hectares.

In China, 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 85 percent of key wild animal populations are under effective protection.

By 2019, the country’s carbon emission intensity had decreased 48.1 percent compared with 2005, reversing the trend of rapid carbon dioxide emission surge.

Chinese President Xi pledged at the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in September that China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

He called for upholding multilateralism and building synergy for global governance on the environment.

The ambitious vision is also of global significance, because it will offer other developing nations an alternate path to prosperity rather than just following in the footsteps of developed countries.

To achieve a fundamental improvement in environmental quality by 2035, China will endeavour to make production and lifestyles green throughout all areas of society.

China’s green ambitions will continue going forward: the forthcoming 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) is expected to drive decarbonization and indigenous tech innovation, however, without proposing overly ambitious climate actions.

Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, the scribe predicts that the concept of ecological civilization will gain more importance within China through practical applications that demonstrate genuine improvement in coordinated development, with benefits for people, communities, and nature which should be replicated in all the projects of CPEC.

Interestingly, the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 could not deter Chinese stride towards greater green development.

During these difficult times of human survival and productive channels, China introduced numerous policies and strict control mechanisms to accelerate green development in the country, mainly Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste (April 2020), Master Plan for Major Projects in National Key Ecosystem Projects (April 2020), updated Green Financing Facility (May 2020) due to which coal investment is no longer eligible for green financing and last but not the least, guidelines on promoting climate change investments, innovations (October 2020) all indicate Chinese comprehensive plans towards achieving Green China goals.

There is an urgent need to implement agricultural and rural vitalization mechanism including ecological restoration of the countryside in Pakistan especially in the ongoing mega projects under the flagship of the CPEC in the country.

  CPEC stands for quality-driven development thus due attention should be given on environmental constraints, and new opportunities too.

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