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Chinese NGOs warm to climate change issue

By Huang Haoming (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2015-12-20 09:59

Civil society groups should take their place alongside government in helping world solve its problems

China's non-governmental organizations have been closely involved in global climate governance for years.

The China Association for NGO Cooperation and its China Civil Climate Action Network have taken part in a dozen conferences, sending 78 representatives from 18 NGOs since the 2007 Bali conference through the recent Paris climate summit.

We have seen the ups and downs of the climate change negotiations during this time. Clearly, this year's Paris agreement should be the beginning, not the end, of actions on climate change.

There are at least five ways in which Chinese NGOs should be involved in future global climate governance.

First, we should help the Chinese government build a low carbon society and promote public participation and action. Paris means a new beginning for action. The upcoming 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) is a key step for China toward an ecological civilization and low carbon development.

With the heightening of international awareness of the need for emissions cuts, things in China may speed up. During the 13th Five-Year Plan, we suggest better control over total coal usage, promotion of a wide range of renewable energy and heightened nationwide efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

This will accelerate measures to reduce air pollution and very possibly lead to synergistic effects. The establishment of a low-carbon society is not only the responsibility of the government but also one of the important duties of NGOs. Civil organizations can play a role by leveraging their own advantages in promoting public use of green transportation, building low-carbon households and helping people change with way they live.

Second, we should reinforce cooperation between Chinese and international NGOs to strengthen adaptation work in poor areas. Coping with climate change is not only about environmental issues. It also is about development.

In the process of poverty reduction, we should take full account of the impact of climate change. We should consider adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk prevention and reduction within national poverty reduction strategy planning and implementation. Using the World Bank's new international poverty yardstick of $1.90 a day, at least 150 million Chinese live in poverty.

Third, we should help China's environmental NGOs reach the global stage and participate in global climate governance. Due to its outsize influence in population, economy, carbon emissions and energy consumption, China has decisive strategic influence in this area.

China played a constructive and indispensable role in reaching the Paris accord. It also served as a role model for many countries, with its meaningful pledges, including raising the share of nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption to about 20 percent by 2030 and peaking carbon emissions that same time. The country also built a bridge for communication between developed and developing countries as they sought consensus in Paris.

Out of the thousands of environment-related organizations in China, and we would like to see at least 100 NGOs take a more active role globally. They could conduct non-governmental dialogue with developed and developing countries to improve cooperation.

Fourth, we should encourage youth to participate in climate change response actions and promote capacity building of NGOs in developing countries. In the process of global climate governance, commitments to South-South cooperation also need to be implemented in detail to really benefit the poorest and most vulnerable populations of developing countries.

Especially for young people, we should promote climate change-related knowledge, encourage Chinese youth to proactively participate in actions to address climate change, and train young people to be able to execute and lead in response to climate change. Chinese environmental groups and some international environmental organizations in China have made considerable progress in promoting the capacity building of Chinese environmental organizations with lessons and experience.

They worked out successful schemes to deal with climate change and such practices may be an important inspiration to developing countries. Thus, China's environmental NGOs have the responsibility to participate in capacity building of NGOs in developing countries and promote South-South cooperation.

Fifth, we should set up international NGOs with Chinese elements and participate in activities of the United Nations. Until September, China had only 50 organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, while the number is 950 in the United States, 19 times that of China, and, in India, 197, nearly four times that of China.

This is incompatible with China's status as the world's second-largest economy. The government should encourage China's NGOs to take part in United Nations activities, and for more and more NGOs to get consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. International NGOs with Chinese elements should be involved in global climate change governance, with effectively allocated social resources.

In short, there are both opportunities and challenges for Chinese NGOs to participate in international affairs after Paris. We look forward to seeing a greater international role for China's environmental NGOs in promoting countermeasures and adaptation to climate change.

The author is vice-chairman and executive director of the China Association for NGO Cooperation. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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