It might seem like a strange partnership between a nonprofit and a huge nation, but it might work. TNC’s Conservation Blueprint project identified 32 regions that the organization and the Chinese government believe are most vital to the country’s environmental future. Currently the U.S.-based conservation group is analyzing how ecosystem-based adaptation strategies “can help those regions thrive.”
To do that, TNC was granted unprecedented access to all of the country’s detailed ecological data, says Charles Bedford, managing director of TNC’s Asia Pacific region. This occurred when China signed on to the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. China considers this classified data, but the information will aid in mapping a problem-solving “battle plan,” including innovative projects that could shape China’s carbon policy for many years to come, TNC says.
For example, in Sichuan Province, TNC is launching a carbon-accounting pilot project that will help China participate in international commitments to address climate change. These efforts could play a major role in China’s efforts to establish a comprehensive national-level carbon-accounting system.
Also in Sichuan, the organization has begun huge reforestation projects that are fighting climate change and restoring habitat for giant pandas. “This work includes exploring how we can use the power of carbon markets to accelerate forest conservation and deliver economic benefits to local communities,” TNC says.
The China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030) “demonstrates the central government’s efforts to build a greener China and highlights the positive impact that the Conservancy — the only NGO that contributed directly to the plan — and its Blueprint are having on the country’s environmental future,” TNC says.
The action plan is the first in China since 1994 and sets a number of objectives, including a halt to biodiversity loss in China by 2020. The action plan “will shape China’s environmental policies for years to come,” says Zhang Shuang, director of the Conservancy’s China program and the project leader for the Blueprint. He adds that the Conservancy’s science “is playing a crucial role in taking on the most pressing threats to China’s environment.”
It’s an enormous job in an enormous country with enormous environmental and biological diversity, along with a population of more than 1.3 billion people.
China’s rapid development as an industrialized nation has been fueled largely by its reliance on coal. To its credit, the country is taking some positive steps to curb air emissions, with news reports indicating the government will ban the use of coal in Beijing and other urban areas by 2020. Last month, Wang Yi, a Chinese academic who is also a senior lawmaker, was quoted in a New York Times article as saying the government is considering a national cap on coal use as soon as 2016.
“The wretched air in China’s cities is forcing Chinese officials to change their energy policies. If they do a good job tackling local pollution, they could also have a big impact on climate change,” said a New York Times editorial over the weekend.
Will it be enough? Will the timetable for curbing coal use spur a coal consumption spree that could heavily harm the environment before restrictions kick in? Those are questions and concerns for another day. For now, it’s encouraging that China is coming to its senses.
Image credit: Chongqing from Yi Ke Shu Observation by Sam Gao via Flickr