Volume 208 Number 32 | Monday, 3 June 2019
CCICED 2019 Highlights
Sunday, 2 June 2019 | Hangzhou, China
The 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) opened at the Hangzhou International Expo Center, China, on Sunday. The meeting began in the morning with the presentation in plenary of research findings from eight CCICED Special Policy Studies, conducted under the aegis of its four task forces.
Under Task Force 1 on global governance and ecological civilization, speakers presented findings and recommendations of their studies on: global climate governance and China’s role; post-2020 global biodiversity conservation; and global ocean governance and ecological civilization.
Under Task Force 2 on green urbanization and environmental improvement, they presented on: green urbanization strategy and pathways towards regional integrated development; ecological compensation and green development institutional reform in the Yangtze River Economic Belt; and goals and pathways for environmental improvement in 2035.
Under Task Force 3 on innovation, sustainable consumption and production (SCP), findings and recommendations from an SPS on green transition and sustainable social governance were presented.
Under Task Force 4 on green energy, investment and trade, they discussed efforts toward the Green Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Participants then provided feedback and made further suggestions on these topics. Discussions highlighted many examples of good practice, as well as opportunities for improvements in policy and practice.
In the afternoon, they engaged in focused discussions in six open forums. Many participants highlighted the need to adopt a systems approach that will allow for cross-cutting and multi-stakeholder approaches to problem solving.
In the evening, invited guests attended a gala dinner hosted by CCICED.
Policy Research Dialogue
Opening: CCICED advisors Liu Shijin, China Develop-ment Research Foundation and former Deputy President, Development Research Center of the State Council, and Scott Vaughan, Chief International Advisor to CCICED and former CEO, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), co-chaired the dialogue. Liu introduced presentations on the various SPS, and invited participants to comment. Vaughan expressed warm appreciation for the efforts of all concerned.
Global climate governance and China’s role: Wang Yi, Chinese Academy of Sciences, stated that challenges due to the global uncertainty in multilateralism remain, and that China’s commitment to playing a leading role in fulfilling climate commitment and global climate governance is unchanged. In discussing policy recommendations, Wang highlighted the need to: accelerate the decarbonization rate of the Chinese economy; speed up the structural transformation of energy consumption; deepen policy integration and co-management of economic transformation, energy transition, environmental quality and climate protection; enhance research and capacity building in adaptation and nature-based solutions; make climate and environmental sustainability a key component of the BRI development strategies; and to establish diversified funding from various sources for climate finance.
Post-2020: Global biodiversity conservation: Li Lin, Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, WWF International, stressed that global indicators on biodiversity health were all continuing to decline. She pointed to the opportunities in the lead-up to the fifteenth Conference of Parties (CBD COP15) for China to work with international leaders to make key decisions to ‘bend the curve’ toward reversing this trend in the coming decades. She stressed that the biodiversity community could learn from the climate community in aiming to replicate the success of the Paris Agremeent on climate, including in mobilizing non-state actors. The SPS recommended that China should: aim to ensure global leaders’ commitment to a high-quality COP 15 outcome; accelerate greening of the BRI within and outside China, including through the Green BRI Coalition announced at the 2019 BRI Forum; and integrate biodiversity actions more effectively into China’s 14th 5-year plan.
Global ocean governance and ecological civilization: Jan-Gunnar Winther, CCICED member and Specialist Director, Norwegian Polar Institute, outlined the needs for addressing marine pollution through: promoting joint action to address land-ocean interactions; implementing integrated life-cycle management for plastics and a plan for maritime pollution prevention and control; developing a market system for managing marine pollution and plastics, including compensation for protecting marine ecology through establishing diverse funding mechanisms; and fostering international collaboration and partnerships.
In terms of maritime operations policy, he recommended: enforcing stricter requirements on maritime operations; building ecological ships and ports; anticipating the impacts of potential Arctic global trade; providing education and training; and promoting sustainable fisheries and green fishing ports.
Green urbanization strategy and pathways toward regional integrated development: Zhang Yongsheng, CCICED special advisor and Vice Director-General, Department of Development Strategy and Regional Economy of Development Research Center of the State Council, emphasized that China’s current urbanization model is unsustainable and must be redefined. This, he said, requires valuing spiritual and environmental goods, not only material production and consumption. With an estimated 300 million more Chinese expected to move to cities, Zhang also stressed the importance of developing green transport and infrastructure to accommodate this. He suggested that green urbanization in the 20 city clusters accounting for 90% of China’s GDP and 70% of its population can drive green transformation nationwide. He also emphasized that the expansion of high-speed rail and digital connectivity now means the delivery of many services can be decentralized and that rural areas can now support diverse economic activities beyond agriculture.
Ecological compensation and green development institutional reform in the Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB): Amy Leung, Asian Development Bank (ADB), highlighted policy recommendations to: strengthen the capacity for pollution control and ecological conservation and address the immediate challenges of plastic, chemical and toxic pollution; develop an integrated ‘mountain-to-sea’ vision for the planning and management of the watershed; develop performance-based indicators for ecological restoration, accountability, and investment; improve the effectiveness of ecological compensation and diversify funding sources for compensation; and establish a ‘Digital Yangtze River’ platform for data to be used in key planning decisions across the basin, addressing supply chains, traceability and data gaps.
Goals and pathways for environmental improvement in 2035: Wolfgang Seidel, Head of Division, President Office, German Federal Environment Agency, listed four major challenges for environmental improvement: the continued industrial transformation of various sectors; the need to integrate environmental protection into other fields; public awareness; and the consistency of desired goals with existing policies. With a view to enhancing both the wellbeing of people and the protection of natural resources while acknowledging regional differences, he proposed: setting up demonstration zones to promote the ‘Beautiful China’ concept; integrating environmental and social policy and establishing a green evaluation system for industry; optimizing ‘eco-environment’ governance structures; enhancing public awareness; and increasing the capacity of judiciary to handle environmental issues and enhance people’s access to environmental justice.
Green transition and sustainable social governance: Åsa Romson, CCICED member, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, and former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, highlighted the dramatic changes in the volume and patterns of consumption in China as the population has moved beyond a subsistence economy. She explained the SPS had worked on defining green consumption, noting the importance of developing sound policies. She reported that existing policies are largely voluntary, while products available on the market tend to focus more on energy efficiency and less on ecological protection.
She urged further research and development of a national strategy for promoting behavior change toward green lifestyles, noting the opportunities inherent in the current digital transformation. She presented recommendations to promote green consumption through: increasing the supply of green products, promoting eco-labels, and strengthening certification systems; developing a circular economy; conducting lifestyle campaigns to increase public support; improving market incentives; building infrastructure capacity; and establishing a sound indicator system.
Green BRI and 2030 SDGs: Aban Marker Kabraji, Regional Director, IUCN Asia Regional Office, emphasized the close links between BRI objectives and the SDGs. She highlighted that China would bring not only funding and expertise but also its culture and thinking to BRI implementation in coming decades, and that this would influence how the world approaches development cooperation. She noted international commentators had welcomed President Xi Jinping’s speech at the 2019 BRI Forum in April, where he addressed several international concerns about BRI implementation, including adherence to standards, respect for national laws, and debt issues. She acknowledged that BRI’s massive scope meant a need for replicable, high-quality design models. She noted a coordination mechanism could assist in identifying synergies between the work of the various SPS on oceans, biodiversity, energy and climate.
Zhou Guomei, Deputy Director-General, International Environmental Cooperation Center, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China, outlined the SPS’s policy recommendations on the BRI to: play an active role in climate governance; develop a strategic alignment mechanism promoting coordination and implementation of strategies with policies, plans, standards and technologies; establish a risk prevention mechanism to guide green investment with green finance and environmental impact assessments; build a project management mechanism to encourage green development practice by businesses; and promote people-to-people bonds to strengthen human resource exchange and capacity building.
Comments by Task Force Co-Chairs: Xie Zhenhua, former Vice Chair, National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC), and China’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, thanked and congratulated each task force on progress made. He highlighted environmental protection as ‘the endogenous growth engine’ for economic development, emphasizing that maritime pollution, climate change, biodiversity and other areas mentioned in the policy research dialogue will become crucial to increasing security and growth. On climate governance, he stressed the need for a synergistic approach to climate adaptation and mitigation in support of the aims of the forthcoming 25th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and CBD COP 15. On biodiversity protection, he noted synergies with action on climate change and connections with the Green BRI. On marine governance, he highlighted the land-based sources of ocean pollution, and the need to introduce systemic ‘mountain-to-sea’ governance of watersheds. He also noted calls for a circular economy and risk assessment of the Green BRI, based on benchmarking of standards.
Liu, CCICED chief advisor, highlighted the growth of metropolitan clusters in areas such as Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Beijing as being crucial to the future development of China. He noted that suburban developments are contributing to an increase in construction and development, and new institutional arrangements are needed to green the construction industry and create sustainable cities.
Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF, stressed that the challenge of accommodating a growing global population and rising middle class, while preserving Earth’s ecological systems, requires radically reforming systems of production and consumption. This, he noted, will require the sustainable use of living resources on land and at sea, achieving net-zero land conversion, and achieving circular economies. Lambertini also said that China’s and other countries’ shifts towards consumption-led growth models creates an opportunity for promoting green consumption, including based on the promotion of health and other co-benefits. Finally, he noted the cross-cutting nature of work on sustainable production and consumption and how this will be a core aspect of the task force on SCP.
Bernice Lee, Executive Director, Hoffmann Centre, Chatham House, underscored the importance of green infrastructure in climate mitigation and enhancing quality of life, and emphasized the government’s role in actively shaping demand, advancing green consumption patterns and the circular economy, and addressing challenges in the food and land use system. She pointed to the importance of digital technologies in, for example, shortening the demand chain, and to the role of trade as an instrument to internalize externalities and deliver on sustainability goals.
In subsequent comments from the floor, participants welcomed the richness of the material presented, noting multiple synergies and common themes. To further the work, they proposed establishing a small team and undertaking modeling and spatial planning as aids to formulate targets and policies. In this regard, Vaughan mentioned ongoing discussions on scenario development.
Participants called for addressing the critical role of seagrass beds and tidal flats in ocean governance, and for holding focused discussions on how to showcase the work of CCICED during China’s hosting of CBD COP15.
In closing remarks, Liu called for a focus on generating new ideas, viewpoints, and methodologies for sustainable development. He said that research should also concentrate on addressing particular ‘pain points’ in the quest for transformations toward sustainability. He noted that, while pollution control has dominated past discussions, today green consumption has risen as a key topic on the international agenda. He highlighted the emergence of large ‘green markets’, based on innovation, availability of financing, and the need to facilitate trade in green goods.
Parallel Open Forums
High-quality development and green transition during the 14th five-year plan (FYP) period: The forum was co-chaired by CCICED Vice Chair Li Ganjie, Minister, Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), China, and CCICED Vice Chairperson Erik Solheim, Senior Advisor, World Resources Institute. In the opening session, Li emphasized the need for harmony between man and nature. He noted efforts that China has made towards green transformation to date, including: supply-side production reform; mandatory clean production audits; increasing investment in pollution control at a rate higher than most other policy areas; and developing open and transparent environmental markets. Li said that local environmental protection bureaus should be able to force technological upgrading and that the 14th FYP represents ‘a new start’ after China reaching its centennial goal of becoming a moderately prosperous society.
Solheim emphasized that changing one word from ‘high-speed’ to ‘high-quality growth’ can have an enormous impact on China’s development. He proposed three recommendations for the 14th FYP: building a positive narrative for green transformation, including through positive phrases such as ‘green is gold’ and ‘beautiful China’, emphasizing co-benefits for health and jobs; placing people at the center of policy and mobilizing political will to bring people on board; and sharing not just China’s technology, but also best practices, such as Zhejiang Province’s efforts to clean its rivers.
Zheng Xinli, Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, emphasized that China will not follow the consumption path of the United States and will instead learn from the energy saving and recycling practices of Northern Europe. He stressed that to achieve the SDGs and reach net-zero carbon emissions in the second half of this century, China must solve the pollution issues left behind by the previous 40 years of fast growth, including by integrating green urbanization into the 14th FYP, enhancing third party management for pollution control, and strictly enforcing environmental legislation.
Li Ganjie moderated the session on the environmental, economic and social trends, challenges, and opportunities during China’s FYP period, and first invited Liu Jian, Chief Scientist and Director of the Science Division, UNEP, to share key findings of the 6th Global Environmental Outlook. Noting the gravity of the global environmental crisis, he likened the number of premature deaths caused environmental factors to the death toll of the World Wars. Li recommended that the 14th FYP encourage shifts towards consuming more plant-based protein rather than meat; Chinese leadership in global efforts to enhance Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and sustainable production and consumption.
Peng Jiaxue, Vice-Governor of Zhejiang Province, underscored: putting people first when developing environmental governance; not pursuing one-size-fits-all solutions; performance evaluation system for local officials that aligns with local realities; and encouraging citizens to actively participate as volunteer environmental inspectors.
Lu Jun, Director-General, Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, stressed that China’s BRI efforts must both honour existing international agreements and help improve international institutions with Chinese ideas. His recommendations included: promoting industrial restructuring; funding waste treatment; and developing integrated pollution monitoring.
Finn Pratt, Secretary, Department of the Environment and Energy, Australia, expressed support for the 14th FYP emphasising green consumption and circular economy. He said Australia’s approach to circular economy is prioritizing plastic, promoting demand for recycled materials, and industrial circular economy development.
CCICED Special Advisor Hu Baolin underscored the need for China to remain committed to its environmental objectives despite downward pressure on the economy, but expressed concern that this may not be happening at the local level. He also encouraged better engagement of the public in environmental efforts, including by promoting channels for citizen reporting on pollution.
Zhu Baoling, National Information Center, emphasized the need to focus on boosting total factor productivity, noting that it has fallen since the 2008 financial crisis. He proposed promoting: technological innovation and circular economy; green urbanization; green consumption; supply side reform; and suggested that international climate cooperation could be a catalyst to help improve overall global multilateralism.
Wu Shunzu, MEE, China, suggested that a useful framing for China’s environmental progress in the coming decades could be “stable improvement” by 2020 and “overall improvement” by 2030. The former is important, he said, because current improvements remain inconsistent. Wu also called for the 14th FYP to focus on “how to do” rather than just “what to do”.
Brendan Gillespie, Green Solutions Network, pointed out that China’s low economic productivity is concentrated in a small number of highly polluting sectors, such as steel manufacturing, thereby creating an opportunity for simultaneously achieving industrial upgrading and better environmental performance. He also called for removing environmentally harmful subsidies and accelerating the exit of unprofitable firms for ailing sectors, stressing that targeted social welfare should support such transitions.
Solheim moderated the session on the environmental, economic and social trends, challenges, and opportunities during China’s FYP period, first giving the floor to Wang Yiming, Vice President of Development Research Center of the State Council, who highlighted growing demographic pressures in China, including a declining working age population and increasing dependency ratio. He also made the case that China is at a point of peak environmental pressure, with many pollutants, including CO2, approaching inflection points where they will peak and then begin to decline.
Maria Krautzberger, President, German Federal Environment Agency, underscored that “a green economy is an innovative economy”, but that many environmental challenges can also be solved with traditional approaches. She shared four recommendations from the SPS on Goals and Pathways for a Beautiful China: forward-looking planning, including through scenario analysis; bottom-up approaches, particularly through environmental information disclosure and public participation; technological innovation; and strengthening the rule of law and judicial capacity.
Ren Yong, MEE, China, noted that although pollution is plateauing for industry, it is increasing at the household level. He said that the 14th FYP must also be compiled with an eye towards 2035 and 2050. Ren also shared conclusions from a State Council task force on green consumption, including that although green consumption is critical and has been growing in China, its growth has leveled off in recent years.
Rodolfo Lacy, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, emphasized the importance of aligning China’s 14th FYP with a future revised or updated NDC under the Paris Agreement, post-2020 biodiversity targets, the new scheme for chemicals and waste management, and new guiding principles for oceans, all of which will be determined in the next 18 months. He called for the global standardization of environmental economic instruments, such as green bonds, and for the updating of environmental monitoring metrics to account for new challenges such as pollution from microplastics and nanomaterials.
Gao Shiji, Development Research Center of the State Council, stressed the importance of technology in resource conservation. He also highlighted how necessity can induce innovation, pointing to the progress made on renewable energy and energy efficiency after the 1980s oil crisis in Iceland and Japan, respectively. Gao also noted that the range of technology available today offers the opportunity to select those most appropriate to China’s natural endowments and development phase.
CCICED Special Advisor Li Jinfeng, expressed his concern about the quality of growth in eastern coastal China, pointing out that the proportion of coal used in these provinces is on average 10% higher than the rest of China. He also noted that the per capita CO2 emissions of China’s western provinces now exceeds that of the United Sates and called for Zhejiang to host an international green consumption expo to promote sustainable lifestyle changes.
In the open discussion, a participant shared examples of the private sector supporting green transformation, including through using purchasing power to encouraging green behaviour by suppliers and establishing partnerships to offer favourable credit to facilitate this. Li Ganjie also responded to a number of questions from the floor. To one on how to make companies pay for the pollution they cause, he highlighted the promulgation of environmental taxes and incentives in China that have penalized companies and provinces failing environmental benchmarks or targets and rewarded those that exceed them. In response to one about waste reduction and circular economy, he noted the forthcoming launch of zero-waste pilot cities and progress in drafting new waste prevention laws. He also answered a question about sustainable business models by highlighting their importance, noting the need for private capital in funding pollution treatment in China and encouraging international partners to participate in this work.
In closing remarks, Li Ganjie made three additional points about the 14th FYP, saying that: it must provide a long term perspective and overall strategic view of the road ahead; investment in R&D is critical and companies must be mobilized to innovate and commercialize their research; and development plans should be grounded in ‘reasonableness’, guarding against unnecessary risk and being based upon sound scientific research. He also voiced support for the idea of not just looking at ‘what to do’ but ‘how to do it’, suggesting that failing to do this was a weakness of previous FYPs.
Post-Katowice global climate governance: Co-Chair Xie Zhenhua, former Vice-Chair, NDRC, introduced the topic, noting that the final outcome of Katowice reflected increased confidence in the international community’s ability in dealing with the gravity of climate change. He noted however, that ‘there is still a long way to go’ because the Paris obligations present serious challenges. He remarked that China is the biggest developing country and its sustainable development strategy cannot be left to others, as ‘it is our job.’ Xie added that technological and institutional innovation can see China’s embarking on a path of low-carbon development becoming the engine of the Chinese economy.
Co-chair Romson noted that back in Paris, China was the key player in the accord, facilitating the first step towards a solid agreement. She added that the role of China is even more important following the US’s subsequent decision to withdraw from the agreement.
Joyce Msuya, UNEP Acting Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations, noted that 2019 is a ‘make or break’ year for the planet. She highlighted that the IPCC and scientific community have sounded the alarm and that ‘fast speed is the only option left, as moving slowly is as good as standing.’ Msuya noted that this year China is leading on addressing air pollution, which is a global public health emergency costing about USD five trillion in welfare alone. She concluded that China’s approach to ecological civilization recognizes that a low-carbon lifestyle is not a choice but a must. She added that, ‘If we do not bring back blue skies we will not achieve the SDGs.’
Kate Hampton, CEO, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, remarked that the climate crisis is a shocking reality with nine out of 10 people suffering the impacts of air pollution. She noted that green parties are gaining momentum and youth activism is gaining increased legitimacy. She concluded that there is great momentum across the world but this is at risk of being sidelined, if narrow commercial interests are prioritized over the shared future of humanity.
Zou Ji, CCICED Special Advisor and President of the Energy Foundation, China, emphasized China’s special role in the climate arena. He added that China needs to be more active and make greater contributions on climate change, in line with its vision of building a greater socialist economy. He concluded that China can be a more responsible country by contributing to the fight against climate change.
He Jiankun, Director of the Academic Committee, Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University, noted that China needs to be guided on ecological civilization and build a circular economy with low carbon development. He added that China needs to transform consumption and production patterns to increase energy efficiency, to reduce carbon intensity per unit of GDP, and also to contribute its wisdom on solutions to the global environmental governance community.
Vaughan, International Chief Advisor, CCICED, recommended: China reduce coal in its energy mix, identifying a bridging fuel to do so; evaluate issues related to short-lived climate pollutants; anticipate opportunities on cooling as most production of cooling units is likely to take place in China; and assess the role of peatlands and grasslands for carbon sequestration.
Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, remarked that China needs to move quickly to achieve its NDC, in particular the aspects related to renewables and decarbonization of the electricity sector. He added that we need a coalition of companies to work together on these technologies, as well as coalitions of developed and developing countries.
Howard Bamsey, Chair, Global Water Partnership, noted that there are compelling arguments for continuing Chinese leadership after Paris. He advised that ‘the reality is that the most effective climate change action is simultaneously friendly to adaptation and to mitigation.’
Alexander Fisher, Program Director for the Sino-German Climate Change Cooperation, GIZ China, highlighted that Germany and China have accepted that climate change concerns humankind, and needs to be addressed through cooperation. He added that low-carbon urbanization is the key entry point for China as its urban population increases.
The open discussion focused on the role of energy efficiency and the potential of nature-based solutions such as peatlands and grasslands for carbon sequestration.
Wang Yi, Standing Committee member, 13th National People’s Congress of China, said that an increased carbon price will help the carbon market operate more efficiently.
Jonathan Pershing, Program Director of Environment, Hewitt Foundation, remarked that the world has to decarbonize by 2050, and that this goal cannot be reached without action on the part of China, and that there is still a long way to go to limit global warming to below two degrees. He urged China to provide international leadership on this issue.
Jorgen Thomsen, Director of Climate Solutions, MacArthur Foundation, highlighted that nature-based solutions provide untapped opportunities for removing and sequestering excess carbon in soil.
Ma Aimin, National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation of China, noted that China needs to integrate climate change plans into the development plans of all other regions and sectors.
David Sandalow, Co-Director, Energy and Environment Concentration School of International and Public Affairs, encouraged China to be a global leader in investing in carbon dioxide removal, nature-based solutions, and carbon capture storage.
Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, World Resources Institute, noted that China has an opportunity to think about how it can contribute to deforestation-free supply chains, mentioning timber and oil palm as opportunities for China to influence CBD COP 15 to reduce carbon emissions from land use change.
William McGoldrick, Director of Climate Change, The Nature Conservancy, said that China is a success story when it comes to reforestation and commercially-viable, modern approaches to logging.
Global Vision 2050 for biodiversity conservation: CCICED member Marco Lambertini, Director-General of WWF, and CCICED Special Advisor Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chair, Global Environment Facility, co-chaired the session. Lambertini noted positive growing public awareness about biodiversity loss, which, he said, has become as catastrophic as climate change in recent years. Naoko Ishii highlighted the importance of implementation and action on the ground to address food and land sustainability issues.
In the session on biodiversity conservation for achieving an ecological civilization, CCICED member Art Hanson, gave the first keynote speech. He reviewed some of the progress that China has made in addressing biodiversity issues and called for both top down policy design and bottom up action in achieving China’s proposed ecological civilization. Wang Li, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, introduced improvements in China’s legal and regulation system for biodiversity conservation, which include, for example, the development of local provincial level biodiversity regulations and pro bono legal lawsuits to punish behavior destructive to nature. She mentioned two specific legal lawsuits against illegal fishing which took place in China’s Jiangsu and Qinghai provinces.
In the ensuing discussion, Jack Hurd, TNC, said that China’s ecological redline policy could be a model for others in the conservation of eco-sensitive areas, and pointed out some remaining financial gaps in integrating conservation into other agendas.
Li Shan, Alipay Foundation, reviewed Ant Forest, a mobile program which enables hundreds of millions of mobile users to earn credit through environmentally-friendly behaviors and use it to support tree planting in China’s northern deserts or species preservation in nature reserves.
Zhang Qingfeng, ADB, emphasized the important role that natural capital investment plays in filling financing gaps in the Yangtze River watershed preservation efforts.
Ouyang Zhiyun, Chinese Academy of Sciences, pointed out several looming challenges including: lack of real government action to achieve Aichi targets; overexploitation of natural resources in the poor regions; insufficient research on the state of biodiversity; and disparity in the distribution of nature reserves in China. He recommended: lifting the status of biodiversity preservation in the UN to the level of climate change issues; urging developed countries to make more contributions; and setting up a compensation system for preservation efforts.
Lu Zhi, Peking University, emphasized the importance of revitalizing “social norms” in public voluntary biodiversity preservation efforts, giving the example of the powerful role religion plays in Tibetans’ harmonious coexistence with nature.
Yang Rui, Tsinghua University, called for: mainstreaming the target for natural area preservation, including the gradual setting up of specific ecological laws; integrating progress in nature preservation into local officials’ performance evaluation systems; setting up an index of ecosystem services to quantify the value of each reserve area; and undertaking CCICED cooperation with China’s education ministry to integrate nature preservation into compulsory education.
Dimitri de Boer, Client Earth, encouraged enhancing ordinary people’s access to the ecological redline information platform so they can participate in monitoring and reporting of any possible infringements.
In the session on ‘A new journey to a shared goal by 2020’, Joyce Msuya, UNEP, made the opening keynote address and reviewed progress made by countries, including Costa Rica in curbing deforestation and China for its ecological civilization program, which has set a foundation for promoting new economic model, while also demonstrating China’s leadership in climate action.
Cui Shuhong, MEE, stated that, given the historic challenges described by the recent IPBES global assessment summary, China, as the host country for CBD COP 15, would like to work with other members on ‘bending the curve’ of nature loss before 2030.
Alexander Shestakov, CBD Secretariat, highlighted the consultation progress of the global post-2020 biodiversity framework to date, including stages of regional consultations, synthesis of submissions, and the Sharm El-Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda for Nature.
Wei Fuwen, Chinese Academy of Sciences, expressed his view as a biologist about promoting ecological civilization by supporting the unity of nature and man, as advocated by traditional Chinese Taoism, and made further suggestions for sequencing of actions toward achieving the target of protecting 50% of Earth by 2050.
Olivier Robinet, Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, France, shared France’s vision for a successful COP 15, calling for a new approach that applies global targets to everyone, commitments from governments before COP 15 to gather momentum, and the strong involvement of stakeholders, especially from the business sector and local governments.
In the ensuing discussions, Basile van Havre, Co-Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, highlighted a role for CCICED in fostering debate, innovation, and information sharing; integration across conventions; and developing Asian regional engagement. CCICED member Hideki Minamikawa, President of the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center, introduced Japanese innovation, including the introduction of an offshore seabed nature conservation area and a successful community-based initiative demonstrating harmony between human agriculture and the once-thought-to-be-extinct crested ibis.
CCICED Special Advisor Dominic Waughray, World Economic Forum, emphasized the significance of sustainable landscape management in achieving biodiversity preservation goals. Harvey Locke, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, listed common strategies for biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use in cities and farms, shared lands, and large wild areas.
Peter White, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, compared the mechanisms of Paris Agreement and the CBD, calling for business solutions and setting up similar coalitions and frameworks for action commitments. Wu Ning, Chinese Academy of Sciences, shared his view on the post-2020 framework, noting the increasing capability of most countries in evaluating and fulfilling national determined goals. He also called for the scientific community to give governments more policy recommendations to effectively promote real change on the ground. Peng Kui, Global Environmental Institute, reminded participants that poor and remote areas are normally the most fragile in terms of biological preservation and called for more community-based preservation efforts by NGOs to complement legal measures and protected areas.
In closing remarks, Ishii reflected on challenges of the Anthropocene and called for timely and implementable plans to address them. Lambertini restated that a successful COP 15 in Kunming in 2020 is vital to change the current situation in biodiversity preservation, and highlighted that nature conservation is becoming mainstreamed at various levels, including by the business sector, society, and through political commitments.
Blue economy and global ocean governance: Zhao Yingmin, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China, and CCICED Secretary-General, and Su Jilan, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and Honorary President, Second Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration, co-chaired the session.
The forum addressed three themes: the environmental impacts of the shipping industry; plastic pollution; and the restoration of marine biodiversity through sustainable fishery development.
On the environmental impacts of the shipping industry, Zhao highlighted the role of oceans in China’s aim to develop an ecological civilization, and drew attention to various improvements in China’s regulatory framework, including: revisions of the Maritime Law and new regulations on coastal region pollution; advances in restoration and preservation of key areas; development of national monitoring systems; and increased international cooperation and education. Noting that matters related to oceans are now being managed by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, he expressed confidence that this change will ensure enhanced integration of land and ocean management.
Su highlighted the tight linkages between the rapid growth of China’s GDP and the ocean economy, underscoring the critical need for attention to marine ecosystems. On fisheries, he noted the impacts of overfishing and habitat loss. On plastics, he pointed to the high rate of ingestion of microplastics by fish and the worrisome future in light of increased plastic consumption and the slow degradation of plastics in the marine environment.
In opening remarks, Jan-Gunnar Winther, CCICED member and Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, noted that each one of the 17 SGDs is relevant to oceans. He called for greater resolve in goal setting, and learning from successful locally-implemented actions.
Dai Minhan, CAS, and Professor, Xiamen University, drew attention to the unprecedented pressures facing marine ecosystems and the need for new patterns of action. Noting that ‘the ocean is what makes earth inhabitable’ and yet it is largely unexplored, he underscored the need for long-term monitoring, development of systemic methodologies, integrated land and ocean management, and regional coordination. He stressed the potential of the blue economy as an engine of sustainable development.
Amy Leung, Director-General, East Asia Department, ADB, presented the ADB’s Action Plan on Healthy Ocean and Sustainable Blue Economies. She focused on increasing investment in, inter alia, sustainable tourism and fisheries, protection and restoration of coastal areas, reduction of plastic pollution, and sustainable coastal infrastructure development. She also highlighted the ADB’s Oceans Financing Initiative, which includes an investment target of five billion USD in the next five years.
Zhang Kunkun, China Maritime Safety Administration, presented on efforts in the shipping sector to address greenhouse gas emissions, noting that emissions from shipping are low, relative to the sector’s role in the economy. He pointed to the challenges facing the industry, including the increasing demand for waterborne transport, the restricted potential for energy saving and the limited readiness of new fuels. He referred to International Maritime Organization regulations on greenhouse gas emission reductions and China’s improvements in energy efficiency, in particular for new ships.
In the session on ocean protection from declaring war on plastic pollution, Dechen Tsering, Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific Office of the UN Environment Programme, elaborated on outcomes from the 2019 session of the UN Environment Assembly on marine litter, noting that 79% of plastic finds its way to the oceans and that microplastic is now in our bodies too. She drew attention to plastic reduction initiatives in Kenya and Indonesia and, recalling the goal of no waste by 2050, called for a transformative change in the way that resources are consumed.
Saying that only 9% of plastic worldwide is recycled, Wang Juying, National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center, spoke on progress and challenges in addressing marine plastic pollution. While acknowledging problems of comparability in data given different tools and methods, she noted China’s high waste incineration and recycling rates, compared to the global average, and called for a holistic program and cooperation to address this ubiquitous, persistent, and transboundary challenge.
Sonja Wegge, Programme Director, MacArthur Foundation, noted that only 2% of all plastic is recycled into high-value plastic and that 95% of plastics’ material value is lost every year. In light of this, she called for a new plastics economy, bringing together all actors in the system, and for adopting circularity. She referred to initiatives such as the Global Commitment, organized together with IUCN and UNEP, and the Plastics Pact, which now includes 20% of industry, 400 signatories, and 16 governments.
In ensuing comments, Laura Philips, Senior Vice President of Wal-Mart, noted the heightened public concern over the environmental cost of plastics, which, she said, had prompted Walmart to address the issue. Among actions undertaken, she identified the phasing out of plastic bags, the first plastics footprint assessment, working with suppliers to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging, and recycling-related labeling. She said that while there is no simple answer to plastics, Walmart has adopted a goal of full recyclability by 2025, and that it stands ready to engage and work in China to make a dent in this problem.
Zhang Jiantao, Vice-President, Coca-Cola China, expressed Coca-Cola’s intention to be a market leader in a world without waste, and its vision to use 100% recyclable plastic by 2050. He pointed to Coca-Cola’s patenting of plant-based plastic for bottles, as well as 35 other patents in packaging, and showed participants a backpack and a scarf made from recycled Coca-Cola PET bottles.
Zhou Bing, Vice-President of Government Affairs, Dell Technologies, Greater China, pointed to recycled plastic incorporated in Dell’s computers and the replacement of plastic packaging with bamboo and other compostable and recyclable material as part of their efforts in the war on plastic.
Zhang Jianyu, Vice-President of Environmental Defense Fund, together with Hu Wei, Vice Mayor of Hangzhou City, and Wang Lim, President of Cainiao Smart Logistics Network LTD, formalized the launching of the ‘Less Plastic, Greener City’ initiative to develop green logistics for a Beautiful China.
Hu, spoke on Hangzhou’s strategy for environmental protection, which led to Hangzhou becoming the first national eco-city in China, and of Hangzhou’s leadership role as a center of e-commerce.
Wang, presented advances in e-commerce and efforts to green the logistics industry with regard to its recycling of plastic material.
In the session on restoring marine biodiversity through sustainable fishery management, Cui Lifeng, Secretary-General, China Society of Fisheries, presented on the sustainable development of China’s fisheries. He noted the ancient history and diversity of China’s fisheries and its leading role in aquaculture, and pointed to various measures adopted recently by China, including on better control of species caught and improved gear, control of illegal fishing and allotment catchments, and ocean protection and habitat restoration.
Tong Jiachao, Deputy Director, Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Zhejiang Province, presented local efforts toward sustainable fisheries in his province. Noting the decline in fisheries output, he drew attention to action on illegal aquaculture, improvements in marine shipping safety, and protection of important fishery areas and of juvenile fish.
Leonardo Lacerda, Environment Programme Director, Oak Foundation, highlighted China’s decision to stop importing waste, which, he said, has transformed the discussion on waste and plastics. He welcomed China’s crackdown on illegal fisheries and attention to its long-distance fleets, and suggested China join the Global Fishing Watch to monitor fishing vessels entering in illegal areas. On aquaculture, he cautioned against the consumption of more protein to produce less food, giving an example of Peru’s largest aquaculture operation, which produces food for pigs.
Sze Ping Lo, Chief Representative, WWF China, presented WWF’s work in China on certification of sustainable seafood, alternative methods to improve the sustainability of maritime resources, and promotion of citizen awareness.
Jake Krizter, Senior Director, China Fisheries, Environmental Defense Fund, referred to the role of fisheries management in ecological restoration. He called for scientific approaches on fisheries, including the use of tools to assess a broader range of affected species, and a better understanding of food web structures. He also called for moving away from focusing on single-species management strategies, and better defining protection areas. He drew attention to technological innovation in monitoring, better tools for traceability, and the critical role of pilot projects.
In concluding remarks, Zhao and Su noted improvements in China with regard to ocean stewardship, but warned that the risk of failure is very high, given the severity of plastic pollution and the compounded impacts of climate change. They expressed hope for continued advances through institutional development, rules and regulation, implementation at different government levels, integrated management of estuaries, monitoring and supervision, and enhanced awareness.
Belt and Road Initiative and green urbanization: Liu Shijin, CCICED Chief Adviser, and Andrew Steer, CCICED member and CEO, World Resources Institute, co-chaired the dialogue.
In opening remarks, Co-ChairLiu noted that urbanization has been the most important social transformation for China in recent years, resulting in major movements of people around the country. He highlighted it was a complex phenomenon, as digital technology is also making teleworking more possible while, in a counter-trend, high speed trains are making attending meetings in another city more frequent. He stressed that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) needs to be green because locking in infrastructure that does not support sustainable development would involve high replacement costs.
Co-Chair Steer began by underlining that urban populations are growing faster than ever before in history as another 2.5 billion people would be added by 2030, increasingly in South Asia and Africa. He welcomed the potential for China’s investment in cities to yield sustainability benefits as China was now beginning to demonstrate in its own cities the soundness of investing in green urbanization. He stressed the importance of investors, before signing off projects, assessing how to: make cities as compact as possible; optimize the transport network; green buildings; and reduce a city’s carbon footprint.
In a session on experience sharing among BRI countries on regional integrated development and urban management, Shi Yulong, Director-General, China Center for Urban Development, National Development and Reform Commission of China, gave the keynote address and stressed that green urbanization is the most efficient way to increase sustainable development. He noted it would be important to build capacity of all agencies involved in BRI partnerships, and that along the BRI route cities were highly diverse, requiring a deep understanding of each country. Shi stressed it would be vital to consider sustainable development factors prior to funding projects. He underlined that the establishment of the BRI Green Development Coalition in April 2019 would accelerate global sustainable development.
Aban Kabraji, IUCN, called on China to support BRI partner countries to achieve best practice, particularly in relation to biodiversity safeguards. She noted China has leading-edge expertise in some aspects of green urbanization and stressed that IUCN, as a BRI partner, is confident that it can work with the BRI Green Development Coalition to help green the BRI.
Li Xiaojiang, former President of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, stressed that China needs to share with the international community its lessons learned as well as its emerging expertise. He recalled China’s land use policies has resulted in residential zones being extremely compact, putting pressure on human mental health as well as introducing fire control challenges.
Ke Yimbin, BRI Expert Committee member, proposed a ‘shared urbanization’ approach amongst communities of countries, multinationals and NGOs, which he dubbed ‘Gong Tong Modernization’, saying this would replace traditional competitive models of modernization. He noted that the BRI can contribute to ‘Gong Tong Modernization.’
Balasz Horvath, UNDP, stressed BRI’s magnitude and that its long-term nature created synergies with the SDGs. He called for coherent policies that learned from the past and accommodated foreseeable future risks such as from climate change. Horvath advocated quantifying climate change NDC targets and using market tools such as eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and setting a carbon price to create revenue of $5 trillion. He also noted that market failures would require regulation and that the BRI could help harmonize regulations among partner countries.
In the ensuing discussion, participants noted that: planning of central Asian cities, which had involved significant Chinese funding, had not been green; recipient countries needed to take responsibility for how they spend BRI funding; and Chinese high-rise buildings were not consistent with nature.
In the session on environmental improvement and green cities, Hu Wei, Vice Mayor of Hangzhou Municipal Government, recalled that Hangzhou was an important city on the maritime silk road. Hu outlined Hangzhou’s supply side reforms to date in promoting IT and a smart economy. He also stressed that Hanzhou placed emphasis on the benefits of ‘green life’ for its citizens: the city had pushed for bluer skies and cleaner waters and, in future, all residents will be within 500 meters of a metro station. He noted that 90% of public buses are electric and that the city had reduced significantly the number of days with high particulate readings.
Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), gave a further keynote address and noted that China, an IRENA member, has been one of the countries to invest most in renewable energy. La Camera noted that in 2018 China’s investment in renewable power generation had reached 26% of national electricity generation. He outlined IRENA projections indicating that to stay in line with the Paris agreement global renewable energy consumption in buildings would need to grow from 36% at present to 81% in 2050. He urged BRI to improve its sectoral regulation to accelerate the green urban revolution.
Hans Mommaas, Director-General, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, said countries were now looking to build high density urban environments in a much more nature-based way than high rise buildings. He noted that pollution challenges for river deltas in Europe and China shared similar issues: authorities are now looking to give space back to the river and to decarbonize industries along their routes.
Zhou Gomei, MEE, noted that while China had success stories like Hangzhou and Shenzhen, sixteen provinces are rolling out campaigns for eco-friendly provinces to assist cities that continue to be haunted by haze. She stressed that the green BRI can support green urbanization and reaching higher levels of renewable energy consumption by buildings in coming decades. She noted that Pakistan has expressed interest in borrowing the ‘Shenzhen model’ of traffic sharing lanes and a diverse transportation matrix.
Zhang Yongsheng, State Council Development Research Center, highlighted that in the past cities had facilitated industrial spaces but the shape of future cities will increasingly be different as digital technologies are offering the opportunity for cities to be organized in a greener way. Zhang said the BRI is not about promulgating Chinese models and that there would be learning on both sides. He highlighted that BRI is an innovative tool to promote a shared prosperous future.
Robert Mosely, The Nature Conservancy, highlighted that while nature-based urban systems work, city leaders are still hesitant to invest in this direction unless the return on investment is better than traditional methods. Mosely noted that the BRI needs to be more proactive in promoting sustainability: in Myanmar Chinese investment in a new city near Yangon looked set to replicate problems China has experienced in the last 30 to 40 years. He stressed that BRI should rather be helping them to learn lessons from China’s experience.
In the ensuing discussion, participants noted the BRI needed to carefully consider: how it can help developing countries in Africa that have weak governance; the continuing appeal of traditional urban development models in some developing countries; and that providing sustainable infrastructure does not address issues of inequality and poverty.
In the session on innovation and practices in green infrastructure investment, Oyun Sanjaasuren, Green Climate Fund (GCF), gave the keynote address saying the BRI has the potential to help the world to avoid poor infrastructure choices which would lock us into a pathway inconsistent with the Paris climate agreement – provided it follows the highest environmental and social standards.
Nicholas Rosselini, UN Resident Coordinator, China, noted the BRI can be an accelerator for the SDGs, addressing social, financial and environmental sustainability. Rosselini called for better data access on what is in BRI and what is not, and for green criteria in lending practices. He stressed the importance of building capacities in partner countries.
Bernice Lee, Chatham House, stressed the need for new ways to manage areas of extreme poverty. Lee also highlighted a need to work more closely with BRI countries to address significant increases in energy intensity and the importance of considering natural infrastructure as an insurance policy against future problems when doing cost-benefit analyses.
Galit Cohen, Ministry of Environment, Israel, noted she had proposed a framework for green BRI development involving green certification for sound performance across BRI projects. She then outlined a further subscheme for encouraging green innovation through strong partnerships, based on an Israeli innovation model of public-private partnerships between traditional industries and government to recruit startup companies.
Sun Jingfeng, Director, BRI Environmental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center (Shenzhen), outlined that Shenzhen has grown rapidly over four decades while sustaining the environment. Sun noted that a key approach to encouraging uptake of environmental technologies is lowering costs to match traditional methods.
Sun Yiting, International Finance Forum, noted that finance needed to focus on long and medium term development targets more. He also noted that government funding is still needed to support financing tools for green and low carbon sectors. He said local government fund-raising capacities needed to be improved as in many BRI countries local governments are poor.
In discussion participants noted: China’s experience suggested rural roads provided a low risk investment as there have been considerable economic returns, and that urban form is reverting to historical precedent in some cases.
Closing the session Liu Shijin recalled key points made about: addressing inequality as well as green development; ensuring partner countries are aware of China’s lessons learned, notably in relation to the downsides of high-rise buildings; and partner countries needing to be aware of the potential for leapfrogging such problems to higher tech solutions.
Steer made closing remarks, noting: Hangzhou’s inspiring actions; lock-in of fossil fuel infrastructure would undermine the Paris agreement; the importance of understand BRI countries’ governance capacities and of inclusive growth; the potential for China to encourage natural infrastructure; and the need for quality data to underpin good investing.
Global environment governance and best industry practice: Marjorie Yang, Chair, Esquel Group, and Zhai Qi, Executive Secretary-General, China Business Council for Sustainable Development, co-chaired the forum, which took place in two sessions.
Opening the first session on green, low-carbon and common development, Peter White, CEO, World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), emphasized the need to focus on people as well as nature, and for business to focus on systems transformation and sustainable lifestyles. He presented highlights from WBCSD’s work, including a partnership to promote solar power and an alliance to tackle marine plastic litter. Noting that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets have largely not been achieved and the opportunity for strong policy outcomes at the CBD COP 15 in 2020, he highlighted WBCSD’s involvement in a Business for Nature coalition to try and create ‘a Paris moment’ in Kunming. He stressed the need for companies, including CEOs and investors, to give attention and provide leadership on risk management, given that most of the top 10 global risks today relate to the environment.
Wang Tianyi, CEO, China Everbright International, presented the possibilities for achieving zero-waste cities in China, noting that Vancouver, for example, had managed to reduce its waste output by 50% within a 10-year period. He highlighted three main objectives for waste-free cities: minimizing landfill; maximizing the reuse of waste products; and limiting the impacts of waste on the environment. Such a project, he suggested, would be a 100-year project for many Chinese cities, and would require having both long-term goals as well as short-term tactics. He urged participants to learn from successes in developed countries.
Waughray, WEF, cited examples of public-private partnerships that are working for systemic change. He highlighted WEF’s convening of representatives from ‘hard to abate’ industries such as shipping, construction, and aluminum production, ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019, with the aim of achieving massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through the commitment of 60-70 company CEOs. On deforestation, he highlighted the work of the Tropical Forests Alliance in reducing the impacts of oil palm, soy, beef, and pulp and paper production on the environment. On circular economy, he drew attention to a platform that includes 60 leaders of companies, co-chaired by Royal Dutch Phillips.
Lin Kun, CCICED special advisor, and General Manager of the Medical and Health Department, China General Technology, addressed the health impacts of environmental degradation, such as the contribution of air pollution to cardio-vascular disease. She noted that, while action and awareness about the importance of environmental protection has increased, citizens still lack information about the environmental determinants of health.
Guillermo Castilleja, CICCED special advisor, and senior fellow Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, California, noted that, while the Green Revolution had dramatically increased agricultural productivity, the costs associated with this increase have been tremendous, citing the environmental impacts of agrochemicals and the concentration of power in large agribusiness investors. He suggested that this lack of attention to serious impacts was the result of taking a sectoral approach to problem solving, rather than a systems approach. He proposed that true-cost accounting and pricing of externalities may offer a way forward.
Jean-Paul Paddack, Director of Global Initiatives, WWF International, noted that businesses account for almost half of China’s greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore businesses ‘are part of the solution.’ He shared examples of WWF’s action on climate mitigation in China, including through its Climate Saver programme that seeks to transform business leaders into leaders on climate action.
Liang Yisong, Director of Business Cooperation and Development, BP China, said that the world faces the dual challenges of meeting rising energy needs, vis-à-vis the requirement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He highlighted company actions toward sustainability, including: contribution of USD 100 million to establish a foundation for technology improvement; investment in what will become the largest photovoltaic company in the world; management of 13 wind farms in the US; and investment in electric vehicles.
In the ensuing discussion, Wang stressed that action should begin not only from the perspective of environmental protection, but also with regard to action on climate. Other speakers urged governments to incentivize environmentally-friendly actions by companies. Stephan Sicars, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), suggested that companies consider where they can ‘put their weight’ in order to have maximum impact.
In the second session, Zhai introduced the topic of circular economy and systematic innovations on global environmental governance.
Zhang presented the work of her company in implementing an ‘eCulture’ programme that promotes environmental sustainability, initially through a Xinjiang Sustainability conference. She explained that the company focuses on educating children through ‘Eco-mobile’ vehicles that bring environmental education through toys to children in rural areas, supported by China Light and Power. She highlighted the need for companies to stay profitable in the quest to become sustainable.
Félix Poza Peña, Inditex group, outlined his companies’ sustainability projects, which are taking various actions including using recycled fibers and reducing the use of water and energy. He noted that one of its most important projects has been setting up ‘eco-efficient’ stores that have successfully reduced water consumption by 30% and energy consumption by 20%. He also described his company’s collaboration with the chemicals industry to identify and discourage the use of hazardous chemicals through a classification system.
Sicars, UNIDO, explained that three land-based conditions influence the incidence of marine plastics: lack of plastics collection; dumping in rivers; and poor landfill management. He noted that around 40% of plastic waste derives from product packaging, and could be addressed through a circular economy approach that eliminates or reuses packaging, part of which would involve consumer education to reduce expectation of packaging.
Lizbeth Jespersen, CCICED special advisor and Director of the Sustainable Trade Initiative, highlighted that globalization has provided access to many desirable products, such as tea and chocolate, which are consumed far from their places of origin. She suggested that action to transform trade could become a driver for sustainable development, resulting in a ‘race to the top’ in China.
Stephan Contius, CICCED special advisor, German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, noted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate both provide robust roadmaps for decarbonized, inclusive, and environmentally sound development. He noted that the SDGs have become an important reference point for some entrepreneurs, but that many countries are not yet on track with implementation of these goals. He encouraged governments to ‘set the right incentives’ for promoting circular economy and new business models, and for more entrepreneurs and bankers to include climate and SDG targets as part of risk-informed decision making. He drew attention to the need to find effective solutions for chemicals and waste management through the multilateral system, and to enhance partnerships and the replication of best practices.
Jiang Weiming, President of DSM China, presented achievements of his company in reducing solid waste and ocean pollution, and avoiding the use of hazardous chemicals, including through: manufacturing 100% recyclable carpets; re-use of fishing nets in Southeast Asia as a component of surfboards; and developing paints made from plant and agricultural waste.
Huang Xioajun, Veolia China, presented some examples of good practice by the company, including: participation in an alliance to reduce plastic waste, support for a scientific research ship that sails the rivers in France to track waste distribution; and establishment of a plastics recycling factory in Anji County, Zhejian province, China.
Sreepadaraj Karanam, Saudi Arabia Basic Industry and Chemicals (SABIC), highlighted the work of his company in improving the recycling of mixed plastic waste as feedstock.
In the ensuing discussion, participants stressed that action by companies must go beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to transform business and manufacturing processes. Zhang lamented that most companies are only interested in government subsidies but lack genuine interest in sustainability; she stressed, however, that ‘everything we do at scale is for profit,’ even though this may take place over a medium to long-term horizon.
Participants discussed the possibilities for thinking more broadly than simply replacing one environmentally harmful product with a less harmful one. They noted, for example, that the growth of mail-order business opens up possibilities to implement ‘the milkman principle’ whereby companies may use delivery personnel to also collect back packaging which, if recycled, could be made more durable and attractive.
They concluded that the current consumption model is unsustainable and that solutions must go beyond cities, to be implemented on the landscape scale. In conclusion, Zhang expressed hope that the session had helped to form friendships that would be instrumental in promoting future collaboration.