Looking for water in China’s 14FYP
by China Water Risk 29 March, 2021
Looking for water in China’s 14FYP: The 14FYP outlined in China’s Two Sessions this March marks the start of the next “100-year” phase of China’s dream. So this month, we looked for water in China’s 14FYP and reviewed the new water targets. We also checked to see if past water caps and targets were met and tapped our China network for their views on challenges ahead in ecological conservation and port adaptation to coastal threats. Plus, don’t miss out on the Top 10 trends in CSR as well as The Top 10 responsible investment trends for China in 2021.
What happens to water in the 14FYP is of great interest as it will set the tone for China’s future. Moreover, a longer range 15-year plan to 2035 was also outlined which indicated China’s “direction of travel” in the medium term. So, we dived into the 14FYP to decipher the tea leaves on the future of water – environment vs economic targets, basin waternomic approaches and “Safe China” plus more left us feeling optimistic. China is indeed all-in on building an ecological civilization where the waters are clear and “human-water harmony” prevails.
Not convinced? Only 8 out of the 20 KPIs in the 14FYP are binding; five of these pertain to “green ecology”; there were no GDP growth nor hard targets. We also took a closer look at China’s new water targets in the 14FYP – are they ambitious enough? To answer this, we looked at what they have achieved in the past – has it managed to control water use while growing the economy?
Well hats off, the 12FYP and 13FYP results were impressive. China’s water outperformance has given it more leeway to “spend water on growth”. Extra water is always useful but it appears China will not spend it in the 14FYP as new water indicators reveal a continued push for “high-quality development” over “high-speed development”. In short, it is still all about earning more GDP per drop and per unit of water pollution.
However, achieving the goals and targets of the 14FYP will not be without challenges. Ecological conservation and achieving “human-water harmony” within “human-nature harmony” is easier said than done.
Here, Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning’s Dr Zhanfeng Dong &Yichuan Song share key challenges from the continued focus on the petrochemical industry & coal-generated power to the need for a modern ecological environmental governance system. They believe these to be prerequisites for a ‘Beautiful China’. A climate change law is also missing and expected to take shape in the 14FYP.
The 14FYP has nevertheless drawn up a blueprint for good business according to SynTao. Are you on top of “dual circulation” or how China wants to boost sustainable consumption? Is CSR evolving with the 14FYP? What about the national carbon market? China’s changing, like we predicted before , the new China is not the old China … so get ahead with SynTao‘s top 10 CSR trends for China in 2021.
Natural disasters have always been a problem in China; seven out of the ten worst global floods have been in China. So another aspect of the 14FYP is building a “Safe China” – besides evolving good governance and CSR practices, key national assets also need to be protected. Here, we are glad to see Chinese port organisations taking action against coastal threats. A survey found that 85% of the port executives and managers have gotten involved in response to climate change. There is far to go but this is a good start.
“Safe China” also includes building a resilient financial system that can withstand climate shocks. Despite COVID, ESG in China has maintained strong momentum and will be a growth driver post-pandemic, according to SynTao Green Finance. And more than that, China’s carbon targets mean the country’s low carbon transition is in full swing with abundant investment opportunities. See what other trends SynTao Green Finance predict for 2021.
Plus, it’s not just China that is worried about financial resilience to climate change. The ECB is currently stress testing 4mn companies and 2,000 banks to assess the physical and transition climate risks and will be using the results “to assess banks’ resilience to climate risks”. It’s all happening – we did warn that central banks action to ensure financial stability would happen sooner than you think – if you missed this, check out our Year of the Ox predictions.
Our search for water in China’s 14FYP ended up with us finding it everywhere, which is exactly where it should be. Water is used to make almost everything and so it must be everywhere – it must never be managed in isolation. Another thing that we cannot overcome in isolation is climate change and China plays a key role – its net zero carbon pledge by 2060 is a sizeable chunk (66%) of emissions from countries that have pledged net zero.
With pieces of the ‘Beautiful China’ jigsaw puzzle falling into place, surely it’s better to work with China to build “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful.” Together we could all save the planet and achieve “human-water harmony” … now who wouldn’t want that!
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