How ADB is Supporting PRC’s Drive to Become an "Ecological Civilization"

By Stephen P. Groff

Vice-President Stephen Groff explains how ADB is helping the People’s Republic of China deliver environmentally sustainable growth and achieve its climate targets.

Vice-President Stephen Groff explains how ADB is helping the People’s Republic of China deliver environmentally sustainable growth and achieve its climate targets.

I’m here at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing. We’ve just concluded a full day of meetings of the China Council for Cooperation on Environment and Development.

And yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with students and faculty of Tsinghua University on how ADB’s country partnership with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is supporting environmentally sustainable growth.

ADB has been a development partner of the PRC since 1987. Over these three decades, our relationship has evolved, and we now count on the PRC not only as an important client, but also a collaborator, and contributor to development.

Over the last 30 years, the economic performance of the PRC has been spectacular. Rapid economic growth has led to significant improvements in human wellbeing and quality of life.

However, accelerated growth has also resulted in economic, social, environmental, and climate-related challenges. Responding to these, the government is committed to addressing the institutional and governance issues that constrain the country’s aspirations for inclusive and sustainable development.

[tweet="VP @spgroff: ADB committed to working with #PRC to achieve national climate targets" text="ADB committed to working with PRC to achieve national climate targets"]

Indeed, the 13th Five-Year Plan translates a comprehensive reform agenda into a set of concrete actions to help the PRC achieve inclusive and sustainable growth by 2020.

At its 19th Party Congress, the Chinese government reaffirmed its aim of realizing an “ecological civilization” by promoting sustainable development and curbing costs associated with resource depletion and environmental damage. A central focus here is pollution control, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

At the global level, the Paris Declaration commitments will restrict PRC peak CO2 emissions; lower CO2 per unit of GDP by around 65%; increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20%; and increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters.

ADB is committed to working with the PRC and others to achieve these targets. Our support focuses on two key initiatives.

First, we are undertaking a $2 billion investment program which includes policy and regulatory frameworks; tailored financing approaches; and high-level technology in key sectors to assist the country in curbing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. All aimed at healthy and livable cities, and global climate mitigation.

[tweet="More than finance, #PRC needs knowledge-based solutions to deliver sustainable growth – VP @spgroff" text="More than finance, #PRC needs knowledge-based solutions to deliver sustainable growth"]

The second major initiative targets the Yangtze River Economic Belt, covering more than 2 million square km or 1/5 of the country’s geography. The Yangtze River Basin hosts 40% of the PRC population, 40% of its freshwater resource; serves as the drinking water resources for 400 million people; and contributes about 45% of the PRC’s economic output.

However, its economic potential and ecological civilization ambitions are hampered by slow transformation to green development and economic diversification; limited integration of waterways, ports, and intermodal logistics; increasing pollution and pressure on natural resources; and weak institutional coordination for strategic planning.

The $2 billion ADB investment program for the Yangtze River Basin will protect the ecological environment, improve water security, increase resilience to climate change, and advance connectivity, all the while improving the livelihoods of people living along the PRC’s “mother river”.

ADB’s resources are limited when it comes to the scale of the development challenges that the PRC faces. That said, more than finance, the PRC needs knowledge-based solutions as it seeks to put its economy on a more sustainable trajectory, while dealing with a wide array of complex issues, from environmental pollution to creating social safety nets.

ADB remains committed to supporting the PRC as it tackles these challenges and leads the way towards “xiao kang” (a moderately prosperous society), and ultimately an ecological civilization.