The National Action Plan on Climate Change represents an inspiring Chinese response to the international campaign against global warming.
With specific goals spelt out, it is more than a letter of intent. Beyond the political will to assume our due share of responsibility, the action plan provides a practical roadmap showing how we will get there.
Our government has placed considerable emphasis on the idea of "common but differentiated responsibilities" in dealing with climate change. That we are the first developing country to produce such a national program shows our government has no intention of delaying action.
We promised to be a responsible member of the international community. The rest of the world needs proof that we are serious. But more important, the plan grew out of an imperative need at home to cope with the environmental consequences of our single-minded pursuit of high growth over the decades.
The plan boils down to three main points: to incorporate action on climate change into our national strategy for sustainable development, reduce greenhouse gas discharges, and upgrade readiness for climate change.
To be fair, our authorities have done a lot in each of these areas. But we have seen little progress.
Many have blamed the minimal results on poor awareness. The explanation is that both officials and the public are inadequately informed about the devastating environmental outcome of poorly conceived development strategies.
There is truth in this. But only partial truth. The biggest failure lies in our piecemeal approach. It is neither fair nor practical to leave all environmental concerns to the environmental protection departments.
There have been loud calls for empowering the State Environmental Protection Administration to handle insubordinate local authorities. But the core of the problem is whether environmental concerns are present in all decision-making processes.
The National Action Plan offers a precious opportunity for a systematic overview of our existing policies. Unless environmental protection is given overriding importance, we can hardly expect all government offices to share the same degree of commitment.