China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation: A New Paradigm For South-South Environmental Cooperation

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Launching of the China-ASEAN Green Envoys Program.

By Peng Bin

China and ASEAN countries are linked by rivers and mountains, with close geographical connection and shared ecological environment. Both sides are faced with the common challenges and opportunities of economic development and environmental conservation. Enhancing environmental cooperation is conducive to improving the overall environment of the region, reducing the costs of natural resources, ecosystem and environment for economic development, and implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with mutual benefits and win-win results.

Since the beginning of this century, both China and ASEAN have attached great importance to environmental cooperation, and the China-ASEAN environmental cooperation has witnessed rapid development.  As an important regional platform for environmental cooperation, the China-ASEAN environmental cooperation became a new paradigm for South-South environmental cooperation.

In 2007, at the 11th China-ASEAN Summit, the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed to set up the ChinaASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center (CAEC) and formulate a cooperation strategy. In the same year, environment became the 11th priority area of cooperation under the framework of China-ASEAN Summit.

In 2009, China and ASEAN formulated and adopted the China-ASEAN Strategy on Environmental Cooperation 2009-2015, providing the guidance for environmental cooperation.

In 2010, the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China (MEP) established CAEC, which was officially inaugurated in 2011. The center is responsible for coordinate and implement the ASEAN related environmental cooperation activities.

Under the framework of the Strategy 2009-2015, the two sides formulated and adopted the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan (2011-2013) and the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan (2014-2015) successively.

In 2016, the two sides adopted the second cooperation strategy, namely ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Cooperation 2016-2020. At present, the two sides are formulating the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan 2016-2020, which is expected to be adopted this year.

As an important regional platform for environmental cooperation, the ChinaASEAN environmental cooperation became a new paradigm for South-South environmental cooperation.

The China-ASEAN environmental cooperation is mainly focused on the implementation of the cooperation proposals made at the China-ASEAN Summit, and the cooperation activities set forth in the Strategies and the Action Plans. So far, the cooperation has made the following achievements:

I.Organizing ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum. The forum is an important platform for China and ASEAN to conduct high-level policy dialogue and promote pragmatic cooperation. The forum is focused on ASEAN-China environmental issues of common concern, with the participation of policy makers, entrepreneurs, academicians, experts and other stakeholders from China, ASEAN and international organizations. Since its inception in 2011, the forum has been successfully held five times, with about 1,000 participants. The ASEANChina Environmental Cooperation Forum 2016 will be held in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on September 10-11 this year, with the theme of “Sustainable Urban Transformation for Green Development”.

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An exhibition during the first Africa-Asia Expert Meeting on Enforcement of Environmental Law.

II. Cooperation on Biodiversity and Ecological Conservation. CAEC and the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) have jointly developed the ChinaASEAN Cooperation Plan on Biodiversity and Ecological Conservation. The project’s Phase I and Phase II were successfully carried out in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Under the project, ASEAN and China carried out personnel exchanges, held the ASEAN-China seminar on biodiversity conservation cooperation and compiled and published the Report on Good Practices on Biodiversity and Ecological Conservation in ASEAN and China (Chinese and English versions).

In collaboration with ACB, CAEC and the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) jointly implemented the Project of “Strengthening the Capacity of South East Asian Countries for the Development and Implementation of the Biodiversity Strategic Plan 20112020 & Aichi Targets”. Under the project, in 2013, CAEC and ROAP organized the ASEAN-China Capacity Building Workshop on Updating/Developing and Implementing National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans in line with Aichi Targets in China and ASEAN in Kunming, jointly compiled a report named Experiences and Good Practices in China and ASEAN on Biodiversity Planning and Implementation.

CAEC and Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES) jointly  organized the China-ASEAN Forum on Ecological Conservation & Remedy Technology for Coastal Wetlands in March 2016. The forum came up with the Proposal for Strengthening China-ASEAN Cooperation in Coastal Ecosystem Conservation, forming a basis for the future cooperation in the area of coastal wetland protection.

In response to the request of the ASEAN Secretariat,  China is actively promoting cooperation on peatland conservation with the ASEAN member states. CAEC and ACB  developed “China-ASEAN Project on Peatland Conservation Cooperation” to be supported by the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund. This project will hopefully be implemented in the near future.

III. China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-Friendly Urban Development. In 2015, at the 18th China-ASEAN summit, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the initiative to establish the China-ASEAN Partnership for EcoFriendly Urban Development. In November of the same year, the Seminar on China-ASEAN Partnership for Ecologically Friendly Urban Development was held in Beijing. The seminar adopted an outcome document Creating China-ASEAN Partnership for Ecologically Friendly Cities – Recommendations from the Seminar on ASEAN-China Partnership on Ecologically Friendly Urban Development. The partnership will be officially inaugurated at the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum 2016.

IV. Cooperation on Environmentally Sound Technology & Industry. In May 2014, the Conference on China-ASEAN Environmental Industry Cooperation was held in Yixing, China. The ASEAN-China Cooperation Framework on Environmental Industry and Technology was officially released and the China-ASEAN Demonstration Base for Environmental Technology and Industry Cooperation (Yixing) was inaugurated at the conference. To promote the cooperation in this area, the “Belt and Road” Environmental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center was established in Shenzhen in 2016. The establishment of other environmental industry and technology cooperation bases in Wuzhou (Guangxi) and Chengdu (Sichuan) is underway.

V. Cooperation on Environmental Education and Awareness. The China-ASEAN Green Envoys Program (GEP) is a flagship program in the area of environmental education and awareness. Since 2011, 12 activities have been organized, focusing on ecological innovation, green economy policy, urban environmental management, environmental monitoring and pollution control, etc. More than 500 representatives from ASEAN government agencies, schools and research institutes attended the activities, which helped enhance the environment management capacity in the participating countries.

The ASEAN countries are important cooperation partners for the Belt and Road Initiative. Ecological and environmental conservation is one of the important aspects of cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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An activity under the China-ASEAN Green Envoys Program.


VI. Cooperation on Enforcement of Environmental Laws. CAEC and the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific jointly implemented the project of “Strengthening Capacity of African and Asian Countries for Compliance with and Enforcement of Environmental Legislation through South-South Cooperation”. The Phase I and Phase II of the project were successfully concluded in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Two Africa-Asia expert meetings  on enforcement of environmental law under the framework of South-south Cooperation were held in China. The report Enforcement of Environmental Law: Good Practices from Africa, Central Asia and ASEAN Countries was jointly compiled and published.

VII. Joint Policy Research. The Chinese and ASEAN experts are jointly working on ASEAN-China Environment Outlook: Towards Green Development Together. The report will be officially released at the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum (2016) in September.

VIII. China-ASEAN Environmental Information Sharing Platform. At the 18th China-ASEAN Summit, the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed to build China-ASEAN environmental information sharing platform. Environmental information and data is one of priority areas for ChinaASEAN environmental cooperation in accordance with the new cooperation strategy. The cooperation in this field will help to improve the environmental management capacity of China and ASEAN countries through information sharing, and explore the new model of “internet+environmental cooperation”  between China and ASEAN countries. A seminar on the China-ASEAN Environmental Information Sharing Platform will be held in November in China, to discuss the issues relating to the platform.

The above-mentioned achievements of cooperation between China and ASEAN reflects the high importance attached to environmental cooperation by the China and ASEAN environmental authorities.  The newly adopted ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Cooperation 2016-2020 set forth nine priority cooperation areas, namely policy dialogue and exchange, environmental data and information management, environmental impact assessment, biodiversity and ecological conservation, environmental industry and technology, environmentally sustainable cities, environmental education and public awareness, institutional and human capacity building, and joint research.

The ASEAN countries are important cooperation partners for the Belt and Road Initiative. Ecological and environmental conservation is one of the important aspects of cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. In the meantime, ASEAN has made steady progress in the construction of Social and Cultural Community in which the environment is one important element. Therefore, China and ASEAN face unprecedented opportunity for further cooperation on environmental protection. At this moment when China and ASEAN are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, standing at a new starting point, we believe that China-ASEAN environmental cooperation will be further enhanced in the future, and make its contributions to the sustainable development and prosperity of the region.

About the author:

Peng Bin is director for ASEAN-China cooperation at the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center.

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