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.

Highlights

  • The ecosystem in China is generally turning for the better, with parts of the damaged system recovering. The trend of deteriorating environment has been preliminarily reversed, but daunting challenges still exist.
  • China has established a network of full-functional natural reserves that cover various categories and have a rational layout. The natural reserves are protecting 90% of land ecosystems types, 85% of wildlife populations and 65% of higher plants communities.
  • By 2012, over 92% of the population in China had had access to improved drinking water. And those using improved toilets had reached 84%.

Goal 7:  Ensure environmental sustainability

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

Basically met*

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

Unfulfilled

 

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

Already met

Target 7D: Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the living conditions of around 100 million slum dwellers  

Likely

 

 

*From 2000, China fully included the principle of sustainable development into the national economy and social development planning, as a result, the general situation of the ecological system has been taking a turn for the better, while the trend of continuous environmental degradation has been taken under control preliminarily.

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

 

China has promulgated and amended a series of laws and regulations, some of which have been incorporated into five-year plans for national economic and social development. Since 2000, China has afforested 84.70 million hectares of land. Based on the results of the Eighth National Survey on Forest Resources (2009-2013), forest area in China stood at 208 million hectares, with forest coverage rising from 16.55% at the beginning of this century to 21.63% in 2013. From 2000 to 2013, the area of grassland stayed at around 400 million hectares, accounting for around 41.7% of total land area in China. Moreover, China has developed 46 important international wetlands, set up a total of over 570 wetland natural reserves, and over 900 wetland parks, covering a total area of 23.24 million hectares. Wetlands are under protection, and the protection rate of wetlands increased from 30.49% ten years ago to 43.51% now. In 2013, sea areas with water quality of Category I accounted for 95% of total sea areas; while the water of offshore areas was slightly polluted. The quality of urban air provides reasons for concern, while the pollution of acid rain has been stable with a slight decline.


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

 

China has a very rich biodiversity. As one of the top 12 countries in terms of biodiversity in the world and the country with the richest biodiversity in the Northern Hemisphere, China has such ecosystems as forests, bushes, meadows, grasslands, deserts, tundra, wetlands, and ocean. There are over 30,000 species of higher plants in China, ranking third in the world.

The natural reserves are protecting 90% of China’s land ecosystems, 85% of wildlife and 65% of higher plants, 25% of original natural forests, over 50% of natural wetlands and 30% of typical deserts. The percentage of threatened fauna and flora is still relatively high. The percentage of threatened invertebrates (critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable species) in China is 34.7%, and that of vertebrates 35.9%. There are 3,767 species of flora in China that are threatened, roughly accounting for 10.9% of the higher plants under survey. The number of giant pandas in China has increased from 1,000 in the 1980’s to 1,864 now, and that of Asian crested ibis from 7 to about 2,000.


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

 

The capacity for water supply is improving all the time, with the percentage of population with sustained access to safe drinking water markedly higher. The construction of urban water supply facilities is making steady progress. By the end of 2013, urban water supply had reached 706 million people, with 91.93% of urban residents enjoying centralized water-supply service. By the end of 2014, China had accumulatively invested RMB 245.3 billion for water supply projects in rural areas, providing safe drinking water for 467 million rural residents and 40.56 million teachers and students.

Moreover in 2012, 98% of urban population in China had access to improved toilets. The coverage of sanitary toilets in Chinese rural areas increased from 7.5% in 1993 to 74.1% in 2013. Capacities for dealing with urban sewage and household garbage have been greatly improved. By the end of 2014, the daily handling capacity of urban sewage in China had reached 128.96 million cubic meters, with urban sewage treatment rate rising from 34.2% in 2000 to 90.2% in 2014.

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

 

China is working strenuously towards the goal of “everyone has a place to live in”. Since 2008, the Chinese government has implemented an affordable housing project on a large scale. It has set goals including “starting to build 36 million affordable apartments including those made available through renovation of shanty towns, “renovating 10 million houses in shanty towns from 2013 to 2017”, and “renovating shanty towns and urban villages to provide housing for nearly 100 million people by 2020”. From 2008 to 2014, central finance supported the renovation of dilapidated houses for 15.654 million poor rural households. Over 45 million apartments have been started and over 29 million basically finished under the urban affordable housing project. By the end of 2014, it has accumulatively solved the housing problem for over 40 million urban households.

 

Challenges Ahead

There is still tremendous pressure to promote ecological progress. The natural ecological system in China is very fragile and aggregate ecological resources are in serious shortage. At present and for a long time to come, coal will remain the major component of China’s energy mix and the discharge of major pollutants in most areas will exceed the carrying capacity of the environment. Water and soil pollution is serious.

With accelerated urbanization and industrialization, the protection of biodiversity faces daunting challenges such as illegal hunting and logging. Funding for protection is still lacking. There is imbalance between water supply and sewage treatment capacities with considerable urban-rural and regional gaps. The tasks for building affordable houses and renovating shanty towns are still arduous. China is still at the stage of rapid urbanization. Every year there is an increase of more than 10 million urban residents. Many low- and medium-income households in cities are still living in shanty towns in dilapidated houses. 

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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