Despite evidence suggesting that China is taking a step backward in its green policies, there is some optimism after remarks by President Xi on his visit to Yucun, a village in Anji county of Zhejiang province on Monday. “The environment itself means the economy. If you protect the environment, you will receive environmental rewards,” Xi said.
With top-level commitment still seeming to be intact, it is important for commentators to wait until China finalises its next five-year plan later this year before coming to any conclusions on the future of its growth policy. It will be critical for China to draft economic and social policies with green finance and climate action at their core.
China needs to lead by example. It is imperative for the much-anticipated National Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) to be rolled out on time in 2020, enhance its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), and green the Belt and Road Initiative.
As host of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming in October, China also has the opportunity to expand its recent national ban on wildlife trade and consumption into a worldwide ban.
Although the COVID-19 epidemic itself might not be directly linked to climate change, this ban suggests that China acknowledges the integral connection of human, animal and ecosystem health.
Humanitarian needs are presently the priority for the world. Nonetheless, the climate crisis also needs to be urgently addressed, as its consequences will have far greater impact on our ecology, economy and society into the future.
How China pursues the revival of its economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will be closely watched. This is a unique leadership opportunity for China to foster innovative policymaking centered around climate action that will be an example for other countries to follow.
Rastraraj Bhandari is currently pursuing a Masters in Economics and China Studies at the Yenching Academy of Peking University.