Why Green Growth under Xi Jinping’s Leadership?

24. Zhang Haibin Professor Peking University 프로필 사진

Zhang Haibin Professor, Peking University

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, China now is writing a new chapter in achieving green development. By “new”, I mean Xi Jinping’s thinking on green growth is new, some of his policies on green development are new, and some results of his policies concerned are new.

In terms of new thinking, Xi Jinping emphasizes that environmental protection and green development are not merely economic issues, but also political issues, moral issues and China’s national security issues, elevating Chinese leaders’ understanding of green development to a new high.

In terms of new policies, a series of environmental policies and laws were put in place since he took the power in 2013, which is featured with combination of command -control policy and market tools. Domestically, the new Environmental Protection Law took effect in 2015.Action Plan for Air Pollution and Control which was considered as the strictest of its kind ever in China was implemented from 2013.In 2015 China announced he would start to build a nationwide CO2 emission trading market in 2017 on the basis of the current 7 pilot regions. What’s most impressive to me among all the policies is Xi’s effort to regulate Chinese officials’ behavior regarding green growth by strengthening environmental accountability. The two important measures entitled “Measures on Investigation of Responsibility and Accountability of Leaders of CPC and Governments for Eco Environment Damage (Trial)” and “Trial Program on Audit of Departure for Leaders Concerning Natural Resource Assets” were in place since 2015. Internationally, China is increasingly ambitious in pushing better global climate and environmental governance. Recently Xi Jinping promised to make available US$3.1 billion for setting up the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to support other developing countries to combat climate change, including to enhance their capacity to access GCF funds and to establish an assistance fund for South-South cooperation, with an initial pledge of US$2 billion in support of developing countries’ implementation of the post-2015 development agenda(This number will rise to US$12 billion by 2030).

In terms of the result of those policies, now it’s too early to say. But we already had some good news. China’s 2015 target on energy and carbon intensity reduction which is supposed to decrease by 16% and 17% respectively on the base year of 2010 has been met. What’s more important, global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014.For the first time in 40 years, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth. The International Energy Agency(IEA) attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD countries.

Obviously, China is moving toward green development steadily and fast. Of course, nobody should underestimate the difficulty and complexity in China’s pursuit of green development given the fact that China is No.2 in world economy and No.1 in population, energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the world. Therefore, the greener China is, the better the world will be.

Twenty years passed since I visited Seoul in 1995 for the first time. The last two decades saw unbelievable progress in Sino-South Korea relationship. Just see several figures. China is now South Korea’s largest trading partner, largest market of exports and largest source of imports, while South Korea is China’s third-largest trading partner. Two-way trade is expected to reach 300 billion dollars in 2015, which will mark a 60-fold increase over the past two decades. There are more than 1,000 flights between the two countries every week. China and South Korea are each other’s largest source of exchange students, with about 63,000 Chinese students now studying in South Korea and 62,000 South Korean students in China.

Looking into the future, there is a huge potential for cooperation in green growth between China and South Korea. At global level, China and South Korea should have more communications and coordination of their policies in global environmental and climate governance. The two sides should work together to explore the third party market in global environmental and low carbon industry. At the regional level, the two sides should share collective leadership in pushing forward the green growth in Northeast Asia. At bilateral level, the key areas should be energy conservation and efficiency, new energy-powered cars, joint research and development of renewable energy, joint research on the health implications of climate change,etc. Last but the least, the city to city and people to people cooperation on green growth should be encouraged.

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