China speeds national climate plan

Posted: 26 February 2007

Author: Feng Yun

The Chinese government has prepared an official national plan to improve the country's ability to respond to climate change, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning body. The report is the government's first formal policy response to the National Assessment Report on Climate Change, released last December, and will be approved and issued later this year.

"The national plan has significant meaning to serve as a fundamental policy base for Chinese policymakers to deal with global climate change," said Ji Zou, a professor at the Environmental School of People's University of China in Beijing.

Rising temperatures in China have accelerated the release of the national climate change strategy. On February 5, Beijing hit 16 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature ever recorded on this date in the city's 160 years of recordkeeping. Yong Luo, vice director of Beijing Climate Center, noted that from December to early February, the average temperature in China was 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than normal, while the country's northeast has experienced the warmest winter in the past half century.

Rising water demand

According to the recent National Assessment Report, climate change will raise agricultural water demands in China as well as expand the gap in water supplies among regions. The cost and investment in agriculture is expected to increase enormously to adjust to changes in production conditions.

Experts believe that without accounting for crop species improvements and other technical factors, climate change will reduce outputs of China's major crops such as wheat, rice, and corn by up to 37 per cent in the second half of this century. Rising temperatures will also pose challenges to livestock, increasing drought and desertification tendencies in semi-arid regions, shrinking mountain meadows, and dramatically changing the distribution and productivity of grasslands on which livestock depend.

"Many people assume that China's food supply problem has been solved; however, in the next 20 years, the task of China's crop production will be extremely tough," Erda Lin, former president of the Institute of Environmental and Sustainable Development in Agriculture under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Southern Weekend. "In addition to producing an extra 100 million tons of crops to feed future population growth, another 30 to 50 million tons will be needed in the battle against climate change."

Feng Yun is a freelance writer based in Beijing.

Source: China Watch, a news service from the Worldwatch Institute