Chinese NGOs call for 13th Five-Year Plan to include climate adaptation

Extreme weather kills around 2,000 people per year in China, say campaigners, who want to see stronger action to protect vulnerable communities from climate change impacts 

Seven environmental NGOs have called for efforts to adapt to climate change to be included in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the country’s development blueprint for 2016-2020, following the latest dire predictions on global warming impacts from an international panel of scientists.

The groups, which include Chinese NGOs Greenovation Hub, Shanshui Conservation Center and Global Environmental Institute, also urged the government to pass climate change legislation more quickly.

Their comments come after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, published in March, laid bare the extent of the damage expected from climate change, including more extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.

China’s 12th Five-Year Plan finishes at the end of 2015 and the coming year will be crucial in the drafting of the next blueprint for China’s industrial, economic and social development.

The NGOs, which also include international groups Oxfam, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Federation, issued a joint statement saying work on climate adaptation has lagged behind attempts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and must be stepped up. They said that although recent years have seen the launch of low-carbon development programmes and carbon markets, plus heavy investment in energy saving and new industrial technology, work on adaptation has been slower.

Since the 1990s, extreme weather has killed an average of 2,000 people per year in China, while annual average economic losses have totalled 200 billion yuan (US$32 billion), the statement said. Climate change is having an increasing impact on food security, ecosystems, water resources and coastal economies and China’s urbanisation process faces multiple urgent challenges, it added.

However, China’s national strategy for adaptation to climate change, released in 2013, is highly theoretical and lacks concrete measures, guidance on adoption of key technologies and efforts to link relevant government departments, the NGOs said. Meanwhile, public spending on adaptation falls far short of mitigation investment, while private companies and capital markets have little interest in ploughing money into the sector given the lack of short-term economic benefit, they added.

The NGOs want to see adaptation measures included in regional and industrial development plans. For example, poor rural areas where harvests are shrinking should be given guaranteed food supplies. They also called for “combined industrial and ecological planning for environmentally vulnerable areas, with plans put in place for climate impacts and possible disasters, improved disaster risk management, and better disaster awareness and adaptation capabilities.”