6 Ensure environmental sustainability

Where we are


In recent years, the Chinese government has put environmental protection on a more prominent strategic position, established ecological and environmental protection guidelines, prioritized protection and natural recovery, reduced human intervention and utilized natural recovery to promote ecological protection and restoration. It included the reduction of the emission of major pollutants as an obligatory target for the economic and social development of the country, raised various strategic thoughts like building ecological civilization, promoting the historic transformation of environmental protection, and vigorously exploring a new path for environmental protection. The strategic conception of building up ecological civilization and a beautiful China proposed by the Chinese government requires us to grasp and solve a whole series of problems about resources and environment from the perspective of civilization and progress, and to realize at a higher level the harmony between mankind and nature, environment and economy, as well as mankind and society.

Target 7A: Integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

In the 12th Five-year Plan, the Chinese Government intensified its efforts for ecological resource protection and governance, continued the implementation of natural resource protection of forests, expanded the achievements in restoring farmland to forests or grasslands and returning grazing grass to grasslands, promoted the control of desertification, soil erosion, and protected vegetation, rivers, lakes and wetlands. By the end of 2012, 2,669 nature reserves of different categories and levels were set up across China, covering a total area of 149.79 million hectares. Its land area accounts for 14.94 percent of national territory.

From 2003 to 2011, key national forestry programmes cumulatively completed the reforestation of 36.464 million hectares. In 2012, 125 wetland protection programmes were carried out, restoring nearly 20,000 hectares. As for the marine environment, the quality of offshore waters remained stable and the quality level was acceptable. Regarding fresh water, China was confronted by serious challenges. The water of inferior quality Category V accounted for 10.2 percent of all state-administered sections along the Yangtze, Yellow and another eight rivers. There are also significant problems with groundwater pollution.  Air pollution levels are also high, with only 40.9 percent of the 325 cities of prefecture level or above enjoying air quality up to the new ambient air quality standards and only 23.9 percent of the 113 key cities for environment protection having air quality up to relevant standards. In 2011, 1.27 percent of GDP was invested in environment protection.

China has striven to improve its energy security level and to reduce the use of fossil fuels through such measures as closing down outdated production facilities, strengthening energy saving in key areas, and actively developing new energy and renewable energy sources. Nowadays, China is the country in the world with the largest amount of installed hydropower and wind power capacity, as well as the largest collector area of solar water heaters.

In general, China faces challenges from the expansion in its population and its rapid economic development; water is unevenly distributed and suffers pollution; with coal as the dominant fuel, there is a conflict between energy consumption and environmental protection; land protection and management face multiple difficulties, and the problem of prevention and control of land deterioration remains severe.

Target 7B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

As one of the 12 countries boasting the best biodiversity in the world, China has such land ecosystems as forests, bushes, meadows, grasslands, deserts, and wetlands, and its marine ecosystem includes the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Kuroshio Current, estuary areas and upwelling zones. In general, the total number of wild fauna and flora in China is limited, and over- consumption remains a very severe problem. Due to habitat destruction, overdevelopment, and other reasons, the population of some species of wild animals and plants beyond the coverage of the national protection efforts, especially those with high economic values, has yet to reverse the trend of decrease.

The government has formulated a series of policies, laws and regulations to protect biodiversity. Furthermore, in June 2011, China set up the National Committee for Biodiversity Protection, consisting of members from 26 departments. It was responsible for coordinating relevant work across China and guiding ‘China’s action for the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity’.

China faces challenges from a weak assessment system, meaning there is a lack of unified, effective, objective and just evaluation indicators. While funding has increased, there is a large gap between funds provided and the amount actually needed. There is a shortage of scientists and researchers. The conflict between biodiversity protection and population and economic development stands out. The requirements of population on land and resources continue to increase, which has posed as a great threat to biodiversity protection.

Target 7C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

China has made great progress in the construction of facilities for urban water supply and waste water treatment. At the end of 2011, the urban water supply capacity in China reached 380 million cubic metres per day, serving 660 million people, an increase of 120 million from 2005. It is predicted that by 2015, the population proportion of rural centralized water supplies across China will have risen to 80 percent, the quality of the water supply and the safety guarantee will be further improved, and positive progress will also be made with regard to the water supply in rural and urban integrated areas. In 2012, the central government invested RMB 1.325 billion in building sanitary toilets for 2.946 million rural households. By the end of 2012, 3.346 million rural households had sanitary toilets, exceeding the target set for the year.

Nevertheless, still needs to strengthen waste water treatment; to intensify the monitoring of water pollution; to encourage citizens to cultivate sanitary concepts and habits; to improve environmental protection facilities and investments in rural areas.

Target 7D: achieve by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

From 2008 to 2012, the government subsidized more than 30 million affordable apartments and basically completed more than 18 million affordable apartments. Housing problems were solved for nearly 31 million low and middle income households. Nevertheless, a large number of low and middle income families are still living in old dilapidated buildings. It is quite difficult for many rural migrant workers and newly-employed workers to have an apartment in urban areas. The government aims to have an overwhelming majority of urban families living in separate apartments subject to civilization and health standards by 2020.

Problems remain with the renovation of old buildings, the provision of low-rent and public housing, and the development model needs to be improved to raise funds for affordable housing.

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Targets for MDG7
  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
    • Proportion of land area covered by forest and proportion of species threatened with extinction
    • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
    • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
    • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
    • Proportion of total water resources used
    • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
    • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
    • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  4. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    • Proportion of urban population living in slums