28 April, Beijing– A two-day high-level policy dialogue convening key stakeholders, both online and offline, to discuss critical issues on environmental protection in China and around the world kicked off today at the UN Compound in Beijing with participation from three different generations of China’s top environmental leadership.
Jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), this high-level policy dialogue is the second part of the wider three-day (27th-29th) Stakeholder Consultation, which began with yesterday’s business roundtable event examining how companies in China can adopt sustainable business practices, leverage green finance opportunities, and lower carbon emissions.
This Stakeholder Consultation is one of many national consultations being held around the world in the lead up to the international meeting "Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all - our responsibility, our opportunity" taking place in Stockholm (Sweden) on 2-3 June. The meeting will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 United Nations conference on the Human Environment and the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration, the first document to put the interconnections between development, poverty, and the environment at the forefront of the international agenda.
“The Stockholm+50 consultations around the world, including this event, bring together thought leaders, policy makers and practitioners to influence, to build a shared vision and to take that vision forward together, with the money, policies and institutions it requires,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and Pacific in her opening remarks during the policy dialogue.
Dechen Tsering, Regional Director, UN Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia-Pacific stated, “this national consultation will also inform and feed into the outcome of the international meeting in Sweden. We hope to contribute by yielding clear and concrete recommendations for action at all levels, including through strengthened cooperation.”
The high-level policy dialogue is convening some of China’s key policy makers and leaders to share knowledge and lessons learned from China’s historical achievements in environmental protection.
“Humanity only has one earth. It is the common responsibility for all countries to protect the ecology and environment. Building on our previous achievements, let’s join hands to forge ahead for a clean and beautiful world, and pass the azure sky, blue ocean, clear water and green mountains to the coming generations,” stated Huang Runqiu, China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment.
Keynote speakers offered insights on the future outlook for environmental protection in China and globally, and the need for multilateral action to halt the degradation of nature moving forward, and keep the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.
“In the course of human environmental protection, China is transforming from a passive recipient and active participant to a major player. The world and China are interdependent and interconnected,” said Professor Qu Geping, Former Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the National People’s Congress and Former Administrator of the National Environmental Protection Agency in his keynote address. “The Earth's environment and its diverse ecosystems are the cornerstone of a community of shared future for mankind. "Only one Earth" must be firmly remembered by all people around the world.”
“We commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment to revisit the spirit and intention of the Conference, and adhere to and implement the consensus reached by the international community through tangible actions and cooperation.” said Special Envoy for Climate Change and Former Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, Xie Zhenhua.
Day one of the policy dialogue included a panel discussion exploring the nexus between climate, biodiversity, and prosperity in the Chinese context, with a focus on ensuring a just and inclusive transition towards a low carbon economy. It concluded with a commemoration of both China and Sweden’s efforts in environmental protection highlighted by the presentation of the book “Ocean Currents are Still Protecting Us” co-authored by Professor QU Geping, Dr LI Lailai, and Mr Måns Lönnroth, exploring the significance the 1972 Stockholm conference.
“A 50-year anniversary represents a historic milestone for the UN and China’s partnership in environmental cooperation, and this is only the beginning,” said Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in China. “If we raise up our head and look towards the horizon, the need for this environmental multilateralism will only grow and strengthen, just like the title of the book presented today: “Ocean Currents are Still Protecting Us”.
“The 1972 Conference and the subsequent outcomes were by no means a foregone conclusion, but in the end helped to place environmental concerns at the forefront on the international agenda,” said Helena Sångeland, the Ambassador of Sweden in China. “Fifty years on we are faced with new global challenges, with an even greater urgency.”
The policy dialogue’s second day will center on specific actions for SDG attainment, focusing on nature-positive solutions, the circular economy, as well as looking at the impact of greenhouse gas emissions beyond CO2.
Discussions and takeaways from the two-day event are expected to inform impactful decision-making that will accelerate achievement of the SDGs as well as climate and environmental agendas in China and around the world.