Nation reaffirms commitment to multilateralism

December 22, 2020

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment restated China's commitment to multilateralism in coping with global crises, including climate change, as the Chinese language edition of a flagship UN environmental assessment was launched in Beijing on Sunday.

"Committed to multilateralism, China has been playing an active part in global governance on environment and climate change," said Zhao Yingmin, vice-minister of ecology and environment, addressing the launch ceremony of the United Nations Environment Programme's sixth Global Environment Outlook-also known as GEO-6-via video link.

On multiple occasions recently, President Xi Jinping has pledged new measures to enhance China's future climate actions, Zhao said, including hitting peak carbon emissions before 2030 and realizing carbon neutrality before 2060.

"This has manifested China's resolute determination to proactively cope with climate change and stick to a green and low-carbon development path," he said.

GEO-6 was launched as China is drafting its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and will provide important references for its efforts to tackle climate change and protect the environment in the coming five years, Zhao said.

The assessment report said the world is not on track to achieve the environmental dimension of the UN Sustainable Development Goals or other internationally agreed environmental goals by 2030, nor is it on track to deliver long-term sustainability by 2050.

"Urgent action and strengthened international cooperation are urgently needed to reverse those negative trends and restore planetary and human health," it said.

The assessment made special note of three crises confronting the world: biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change.

Biodiversity loss caused by various factors, including land-use change, habitat fragmentation and climate change, is driving a mass extinction of species, including critical ecosystem service providers, such as pollinators.

"That mass extinction compromises Earth's ecological integrity and its capacity to meet human needs," it said.

It also said air pollution, which leads to between 6 million and 7 million premature deaths a year, is projected to continue to have significant negative effects on health and cause between 4.5 million and 7 million premature deaths annually by midcentury.

"If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we cannot have healthy people without a healthy planet," said Inger Andersen, UNEP's executive director.

"GEO-6 and other reports over the last few years have highlighted the important link between extensive biodiversity loss and the link to zoonoses, or diseases that are transferred from animals to humans."

She said UNEP is working with countries on how to respond to and "recover better" from the COVID-19 pandemic, adding "it is vital that we use the COVID recovery packages to address the three planetary crises".

Andersen said each GEO assessment brings together a range of environmental issues as an integrated whole.

"It reminds us that we are all interconnected and that we can solve complex environmental challenges only by making systemic linkages through transforming systems themselves-food systems, energy systems and waste management," she said.

Andersen said China can help reach a game-changing post-2020 global biodiversity framework when it holds the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, next year.

"I am pleased to see China's efforts to address these complex challenges. You are committed to a more nature-focused society," she said. "And I look forward to China's leadership at Kunming …we need a game-changing post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and with China's strong and ambitious leadership, we can get there."