A view of the Qinghai Lake near Haiyan county, Qinghai province, in 2020. [CHEN HONGYUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Oct.30, 2023 -- Countries pledged at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), held in Montreal, Canada, in December, to protect at least 30 percent of all the land, ocean and waters worldwide by 2030 as part of the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. This landmark decision — which was made possible under the leadership of China, supported by Canada — was hailed as a much-needed "Paris Agreement for nature".
This historic pact for nature did not come a moment too soon. In 2022, the tropics had lost an area of primary forest the size of Switzerland, despite international commitments to ending deforestation made at the Glasgow climate summit the year before.
This year, we have also witnessed climate change destroy nature at an alarming pace. Huge swaths of the boreal forests of Canada have been burning since May. Coral reefs, home to one-fourth of the world's marine species, are mass bleaching at unprecedented rates due to high ocean temperatures. It is becoming clearer than ever that climate and nature can no longer be two separate conversations.
The protection of nature is an integral part of meeting global climate goals. Natural systems absorb 50 percent of human-caused carbon emissions every year. Nature-based solutions are also vital for building the resilience of local communities. If global destruction of nature continues at its current pace, it will be impossible to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
The UN's recent Global Stocktake report already confirms that our collective climate action is not adding up anywhere close to the Paris Agreement goals. Incremental changes are no longer enough. Countries must now work to implement the transformation of systems in order to mainstream climate and nature into every aspect of human life and every level of the economy.
People will be central to this effort. In most countries, domestic political issues are critical barriers for more ambitious climate action. Any new policies on climate and biodiversity must aim to improve people's lives and livelihoods, or they will not work. The world needs to transition into a new model of development where all people can have access to high-quality jobs and enjoy a sense of safety and security without pushing the world's natural resources and climate beyond safe boundaries.
Figuring out a solution to accomplish all three goals — people, nature and climate — at the same time is not easy. However, every country in the world will have to find a way.
This is where China can play a critical leadership role. The three interconnected goals of people, nature and climate are all embodied in China's grand vision of an ecological civilization. The country is already leading the way, not only in terms of vision, but also in actions.
It is clear that reaching the nature and climate goals requires an economywide approach. This means policy alignment across all government agencies to create systemwide thinking and change. China's"1+N policy framework "embodies a streamlined approach by which subnational plans and strategies across various sectors explicitly add up to a full implementation of the country's goals to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060.
China has repeatedly shown how policy innovations can trigger and unleash a series of business and technological innovations. Over the past few decades, China's policies have enabled it to become an early global leader in electric vehicles, renewables and energy storage. The country is even set to reach its 2030 goal for energy and wind power generation five years ahead of time. Now China needs to take the same steps and use policy innovations to unleash climate-nature solutions that are good for people.
The actions China takes on the global stage are critical for the world. Last year at COP27, China supported the Group of 77, helping to establish a new fund for countries needing support after facing climate loss and damage. As a leader of the developing Global South and a key player in global climate governance, China has an important role to play in ensuring that last year's loss and damage outcomes turn into real, workable solutions for vulnerable countries. At the same, it needs to play a leadership role to ensure that the response to the Global Stocktake meets the ambition that is necessary to get to a 1.5 C world.
China has shown strong leadership on both the biodiversity and climate fronts. The next few months of action are critical, from the World Bank Meetings to COP28. The country has an opportunity to help close the global ambition gap and usher in a just transition that brings nature and climate together to support a better future for people.
By: Ani Dasgupta