China has become an important global partner in addressing the current climate crisis as the country demonstrates concrete ways to achieve a low-carbon future, chief of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has said.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said China "has had a tremendous success in demonstrating climate leadership in recent years" through large investments in clean energy and technologies, electric mobility, and wide-scale land restoration.
Andersen told Xinhua in a recent interview in Nairobi, where the UNEP headquarters is based, that the UNEP is proud of its long-standing collaboration with the Chinese government, one that dates back to the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The UNEP opened an office in China in 2003, she said, adding "we have been extremely proud to have established a number of strategic partnerships with the [Chinese] government, think tanks, civil society and businesses in support of sustainable development in the country."
Initially, cooperation between the UNEP and China focused on capacity building and awareness-raising on environmental protection, but the focus has now shifted to green development and finance, sustainable consumption, low-carbon development, as well as environmental law and circularity, Andersen said.
Andersen observed that the world needs more multilateralism to tackle the current climate crisis.
"The problems we face today — especially environmental ones — are no longer confined to individual countries or regions. They are global in scope and scale. And an effective response will also be global. For that, we need a staunch multilateralism, and I am pleased to see China taking an active role in promoting this approach," she said.
"We need China to not only be at the table, but to help bring the world together to tackle these problems common to all humanity," she added.
Andersen said the UNEP supports nations as they come to agreements around issues that require coordinated global action.
"We host many multilateral agreements, from biodiversity and ecosystems to regional seas, from chemical waste management to protect[ing] the ozone layer," she said.
She pointed out that the importance of environmental issues and the importance that countries place on environmental conventions were evident.
For example, at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which she attended in August in Geneva, the parties made some 300 decisions aimed at conserving and ensuring sustainable use of wildlife across the world.
According to Andersen, "effective multilateralism" will deliver climate action that ensures no one is left behind.
"Effective multilateralism is when we focus on the common ground and synergies between different multilateral agreements. It is when we adapt to new global realities, bringing into the fold private sector, local governments, young people, civil society and indigenous groups that are all pushing for climate action," she said.
Andersen said the world is at an unprecedented time in history as countries face the triple crisis of land degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss.
But the executive director said she remains optimistic as the world tackles the issues, "because when you work on nature, when you see nature's amazing power and get to appreciate the intricate web of life on earth, you get to see that nature will bounce back."
Anderson said the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and this year's General Debate of the UN General Assembly held in September in New York made it clear that the environment is the single most important mandate at this point in history.
"At the General Assembly, an unprecedented 179 heads of delegations referenced climate change in their statements in the general debate," she said.
"And the good thing is that the private sector, local governments, young people, civil society, indigenous groups are all pushing for climate action," she added.
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