[China Daily] Laurence Brahm: Bar now set higher for ecological civilization

November 22 , 2021

An excited girl feeds a black-headed gull on a riverside walkway in Kunming, Yunnan province, on Sunday. The Communist Party of China and the entire nation have made great efforts and progress in pursuing green development. [Photo by Yang Zheng/For China Daily]


By Laurence Brahm, a senior international research fellow at CCG


The sixth plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held from Nov 8 to 11 in Beijing, called for common prosperity in developing China’s economy to avoid the kind of class distortions and gap between rich and poor now seen in North America and Europe.

The meeting emphasized national rejuvenation as a concept that embraces Chinese traditional values while simultaneously projecting China forward during the 21st century by advancing technology, medical care and green energy systems.

The timing of the sixth plenum coincided with the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP 26, in Glasgow, Scotland. While International heads of state attending the conference pronounced breakthroughs in the fight against climate change, activists protested en masse, calling the meeting a sham.

Past UN climate change conferences have focused on carbon trading (a mechanism embraced by investment banks and capital markets that fails to actually reduce emissions) and remedial funds (required for environmental repair after the damage). They have not focused on the core issue of transforming the energy grid of each nation away from reliance on fossil fuels to green energy. That is a proposition most Western politicians, who depend on fossil fuel corporations for campaign funds, would prefer to avoid.

China’s commitment to this transformation has now become national policy with very specific targets, as underscored at the sixth plenum. Ecological civilization as a national policy has been recognized as one of the achievements of the CPC. This national environmental policy has even been enshrined in the CPC’s Constitution, making the CPC technically the most green political party in the world.

Let us look at the big picture to understand what is happening in China. When the ecological civilization policy was first adopted in 2015, China relied on coal for almost 80 percent of its energy needs. Under the ecological civilization policy, China will have adopted green energy systems for 80 percent of its needs by 2030. This will require political decisiveness to make such a dramatic shift in energy usage.

Few Western politicians could make such a commitment, as it would sideline traditional fossil fuel interests. The CPC’s determination to transition China’s energy grid away from reliance on fossil fuels in adopting new technologies for green energy places China in a position to lead the world in the battle against climate change. And China has an overarching, coordinated policy approach under which different sectors work together to achieve a shared goal.

The concept of ecological civilization takes into consideration comprehensive approaches in order to achieve national goals of energy grid transformation. Fixed-asset investment into constant upgrades of infrastructure has been a hallmark of China’s economic development. The ecological civilization policy will require such investments to focus on overhauling the electricity grid to shift it away from fossil fuels toward green solutions.

Inherent in this process will be green financing, with local governments issuing green bonds, whereby funds raised will go into new green energy and water conservation solutions. Technology will play a key role and education will focus on new standards of engineering and system conversion to promote green energy solutions nationwide. Moreover, public education will promote a national commitment to saving rather than consuming.

While many European nations have very advanced technology for green energy, some of these nations only have a population of several million-less than the size of a mere district in any Chinese city. So by enhancing green technologies through expansion of their footprint, the costs drop considerably, allowing China to scale these solutions on a more cost-effective basis than fossil fuels. These new solutions, green infrastructure and technologies can now be offered to developing nations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative that need to upgrade their energy approaches.

At the crux of this is GDP, the old measurement of economic success that often does not broadly cover economic health. In the past, local officials were promoted based on their ability to deliver high GDP rates. Now local officials are subject to a natural asset evaluation of their region. Promotion or demotion now depends on whether they can preserve, protect and even enhance the natural environment of their region.

So, in many ways, the sixth plenum has set new standards for officials to achieve in their careers and new technology thresholds for future generations.

From  China Daily,2021-11-22


Keyword Laurence Brahm