China is often regarded as the bane of environmentalism, long seen as the world’s biggest polluter and the greatest threat to reversing the man-made effects of climate change. Its heavy reliance on industry and its gigantic global manufacturing output may be worrying activists around the world, but China is beginning to implement policies to decrease its impact on the global environment and could make the country a global leader in ‘going green’. But how are they doing this – and how can other high polluting nations follow in their footsteps?

Changing the system

The Chinese government has pushed for a greater governmental commitment to climate change, creating the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and defining their responsibilities and duties in clearer language that explicitly discusses environmental issues and the effects of climate change. The department also covers domestic environmental issues including land and water policies, which were previously placed across different departments through the government. It is hoped that this will simplify the work of tackling environmental issues and reducing China’s carbon footprint.

Taxation and investment

According to official reports, China will need between $6.4-19.4 trillion to tackle the country’s environmental problems and transition the nation into a greener economy. Fundraising for this has already begun in the form of increased taxation to specifically fund its environmental policies. It’s also hoping to attract further green investment from external companies and countries. At the annual Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this year, representatives from China spoke about their plans for a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), hoping to improve trade and connection between Asian countries and eventually, globally. It’s hoped that this will help to reduce pollution across the continents by utilising old trade routes used in the historical Silk Road routes.

Tackling pollution

One of China’s biggest issues is pollution, an issue rife in its major cities. It’s most significant long-term goal is to reduce the level of fossil fuels – specifically coal – being used in manufacturing and production. Progress has already been made on air quality and the issue of smog has been significantly reduced in China’s biggest cities, but there is still much work to be done.

Chinese government officials have already stated that transforming their economy is one of its biggest strategic plans for the future– though it will be at least a few years before we can assess if their actions have had a significant effect.