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For the past 30 years, China has pursued its goal of economic development at high speed, growing an average of about 10 percent per year. Roughly 500 million people were lifted out of poverty during this time, and China is now the world's second-largest economy.
These are remarkable achievements for any country, let alone one the size of China. However, the strains of such rapid growth have become increasingly clear, such as environmental degradation and its impact on people's health. The country's leadership is now appropriately reflecting how best to improve the quality of life for Chinese citizens.
To meet these aspirations, one of the greatest challenges in our lifetime for China - and the world - is tackling the effects of climate change. We do not need to look far to find tragic reminders that climate change is a real and present threat which can set back years of development progress.
In July, a deluge of heavy rainfall in Southeast China led to widespread flooding and landslides killing dozens while hundreds are still missing. In August, the Heilong (Amur) River on China's Northeastern border with Russia burst its banks, causing the worst flooding in a century, cutting off roads and isolating entire villages.
In July, a deluge of heavy rainfall in Southeast China led to widespread flooding and landslides killing dozens while hundreds are still missing. [Photo/Xinhua]
Evidence is mounting that such extreme weather events - droughts, floods, storms and wildfires - have all increased over the last several decades, some linked to climate change. A recent World Bank report, "Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience", reveals how rising global temperatures increasingly threaten the health and livelihoods of people across regions, with the potential for mega disasters to become commonplace.
Climate change is a top priority for the World Bank and we (at the World Bank) are working with countries, organizations, civil society groups and others across the world to find solutions. China will play a critical part. Its sheer size magnifies the challenge, with rapid growth and urbanization exacerbating the problem.