By Li Dan
China was a late starter - but it has embraced measures to repair and improve the global environment
China has achieved a lot in the past five years. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, the country continued to dominate renewable growth, contributing more than 40 percent of global growth - more than the entire OECD - and surpassing the United States to become the largest producer of renewable power like wind and solar energy. Meanwhile, China's carbon emissions are estimated to have actually fallen over the past two years, after growing by more than 75 percent in the previous 10 years.
China has also had encouraging results after issuing the "national action plan for air pollution prevention control" or "air 10". For instance, Beijing saw a dramatic improvement in air quality in 2017. The number of days with good air quality - an air quality index of 100 or lower - reached 226 last year, 28 days more than in 2016. The year also saw large reductions in other pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide. The average annual concentration of sulfur dioxide reached a historic low of only 8 micrograms per cubic meter, while the national standard is 60.
Statistics are dry but rather convincing. They reflect what China has done to improve the environment. What we can see through these changes is the growing consciousness of the need to protect the environment, the endorsement of relative laws and policy, and China's contribution to the global environment.
China used to be an agriculture-oriented country and has long been confronted with double missions of industrialization and environmental protection. Environmental problems that once occurred in developed countries during a century of industrialization have burst out in China within a short period since the 1970s.
China was convinced that development was the priority but, decades ago, many were not aware of the significance of environmental protection. Some pursued economic benefit at the cost of environmental pollution.
Now things have changed completely. Awareness of, and determination to protect, the environment have greatly improved in the government and among the people. As President Xi Jinping has stressed, to push green development and green lifestyles, the country should adopt a new development philosophy and correctly handle the relationship between economic development and environmental protection. China should firmly reject development models that damage or destroy the environment and bid farewell to practices that boost short-term economic growth at a cost to the environment.
Xi also said in his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017 that the country should speed up "reform of the system of developing an ecological civilization, and building a beautiful China".
Endorsement of relevant law and policy
Environmental protection is a basic State policy for China, which means China's environmental protection is based on its laws.
According to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the State must protect and improve people's living environment and the ecological environment. It must prevent and control pollution and other public hazards.
China has launched a series of laws and policies on environmental protection to make every effort to guarantee a balance between economic development and a green environment.
The Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (for trial implementation), passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1979 and abrogated following the release of an official revision in 1989, marked the beginning of contemporary Chinese legislation in this field.
To protect and improve the living and ecological environment, the legislature also enacted the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution and some other laws.
The National Program for Eco-environmental Protection was formulated by the State Council in 1998, initiating several projects including "returning farming land to forestry and returning grazing land to grassland".
Several detailed reform policies were released by the government in 2017, such as the reform plan for the ecological and environmental damage compensation system, the master plan for the establishment of the national park system and the action plan for the prevention and control of soil pollution. All these pillar reform policies are aimed at enhancing construction of an ecological civilization, promoting ecological environment protection and propelling green development.
China's determination and action in environmental protection will foreseeably witness much greater progress with the aid of more powerful laws and policies.
Active participation in protection
Environmental protection cannot possibly be confined within one country or one region. It must be the responsibility of the entire globe. As a member of international society, China has been willingly and actively participating in international environmental affairs, helping to boost collaboration in the realm of environmental protection and complying with its duty on the world stage. Such action is the very embodiment of the Chinese government's and people's sincerity and determination to protect the global environment.
Shortly after the United Nations put forward the goal of sustainable development in June 1992, the Chinese government announced 10 major measures that China was to adopt to enhance its environment and development, clearly pointing out that the road of sustainable development was a wise choice for China in the future.
On Dec 12, 2015, a total of 196 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reached the historic Paris Agreement on climate change to cut greenhouse gas emissions and set a global target for action against climate change after 2020. China also made an important contribution in the summit.
Since US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017, China's pledge of continued support for the agreement has gained respect from the world.
In May 2017, China hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to expand the circle of friends for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and stressed that China will pursue the new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable. China also welcomes cooperation in ecological and environmental protection and building a sound ecosystem so as to realize the goals set by the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Obviously, China has become an essential participant in moves to protect and reform the global environment.
Experts recently assessed the low-carbon leadership of the members of G20, with benchmarks in political will, policy-making and actual effect. China is in the top group.
China's advantages originate from its profound insight into its own responsibility and benefits. Protection of the global environment is the common goal of all human beings. As a responsible giant developing country, China has to properly deal with the environmental issue, not only for its own people's well-being but also for the benefit of all mankind's community of common destiny.
The author is director of the Center of Africa Studies of China Foreign Affairs University. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.