Coping with climate change is the key to eliminating poverty and inequality and achieving sustainable development. Facing increasingly severe climate change impacts, we are concerned with the UNFCCC process, promotion of climate change in bilateral mechanisms, and China's climate policies and actions.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, and climate governance has since become one of the key issues of global environmental governance. With the efforts from Contracting Parties, the Kyoto Protocol was released in 1997 which is the first legally binding international agreement to set mandatory emission reductions targets. However, Copenhagen COP15 in 2009 failed to reach concrete results, which led the climate negotiations process into a stalemate. Six years later, the Paris COP21 brought the global climate negotiations back as a priority on the political agenda, with more than 196 Parties adopting the Paris Agreement. This opened a new model of bottom-up global climate governance.
In the process of regaining confidence and building consensus, major countries have played constructive roles to the best of their abilities, including China. As the world's largest emitter and the second largest economy, China has a pivotal impact on global climate governance. China's commitments in international climate cooperation and domestic "greening" efforts driven by domestic policies form a benign interaction: on the one hand, environmental pollution problems forced domestic emission reduction actions; on the other hand, pollution control progress in its current stage, contributed to China's confidence in achieving international commitments, and also promoted climate diplomacy.
In the decade lasting from "11th Five-Year" to "12th Five-Year" period, environmental protection issues had been put into China’s mainstream political agenda. The former Environmental Protection Agency was promoted to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and amendments and revisions to a variety of environmental laws and regulations were carried out, and "ecological civilization" reached an unprecedented height in the mainstream political discourse. All these changes are driven by civil pressure and appeal. Group events, like Anti-waste incineration and anti-PX as well as public concern about the haze has connected environmental problems solutions to the core. All of society seemed to have reached a consensus on environmental protection and low-carbon emission reductions. During the "13th Five-Year Plan" period, China will implement more measures to control coal consumption and promote an energy shift, therefore, it is expected that the proportion of coal in total energy consumption will drop from 66% in 2014, to 57% in 2020, and carbon emissions will reach their peak even earlier. All of these efforts will bring synergy to China's air pollution control.
Over the past decade, civil society organizations have created a favorable public opinion environment for China's active participation in climate management and low-carbon development, through advantages in issue dissemination and public participation. During the United Nations Climate Negotiation Year in Tianjin in 2009, more than 60 Chinese civil organizations jointly organized over 20 side events, which is the largest, in scale, for Chinese NGO participation in international environmental conferences. After that, civil organizations continued to pay attention to the international climate process, actively engaged in public diplomacy at the negotiating scene, and carried out relevant policy research. Among them, China’s announcement of quantitative emission control goals can be attributed to appeals and advocacy from environmental groups for years. By proposing some cutting-edge, innovative topics, and cross-sector dialogue platforms with academics, the government and businesses, Chinese civil organizations are able to promote domestic climate and energy issues. Such as coal cap, community climate adaptation, green finance, distributed energy finance, climate change legislation, and so on.
China's sustainable development will not happen overnight, this process will take time, and will be full of achievements and challenges. We believe that open and transparent, long-term, and constructive policy discussions will have positive impacts on promoting China's rational, effective and balanced low-carbon transformation. As a local environmental organization, we hope that through independent research, a close watch on climate negotiations, and cross-border discussions, we will be able to facilitate research and interactions among stakeholders on climate action and energy transformation issues. By carrying out communication and knowledge sharing for climate and energy issues, it will increase awareness and spark discussion on the environment, social and health benefits driven by climate action, and energy transformation.