Pascal Lamy: China Must Take Leadership on Protecting the Environment
Source: Caixin Global.
By Pascal Lamy –
The global Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed our way of life, causing hardship, misery and suffering the world over. It has shown how vulnerable our economic system is to these kinds of shockwaves and highlighted the undeniable link between biodiversity and climate crises.
As we start to envision a world post-coronavirus — no doubt a key topic of discussion at China’s coming National People’s Congress — China’s fundamental role and responsibility is to take leadership on environmental action, including protecting the world’s oceans. This must be recognized more than ever before. Healthy ecosystems on land and sea support economic growth. This is part of China’s principle of “Ecological Civilization,” written into the constitution in 2012. There is increasing awareness, including at the highest levels of leadership, that environmental protection does not have to come at the expense of the economy. In fact, earlier this month President Xi Jinping said, “The environment itself means the economy. If you protect the environment, you will receive rewards from the environment.” Environmental protection is also important to the Chinese people, according to a new public opinion study prepared by Kantar, a leading data and insights company. Of those surveyed in China, 99% said they “support marine protected areas — areas off limits for fishing and commercial use — to support wildlife and habitat.”
Given what we know now, it will be impossible for humanity to go back to a business-as-usual approach that favors a destructive, extractive economic model. Doing so would continue to expose us to further environmental, social and economic instability. On the contrary, we need investment in nature because this will generate huge environmental, social and economic benefits. There is much to gain from preserving nature, especially for an economy like China’s, which has the world’s highest absolute amount of GDP in nature-dependent sectors at $2.7 trillion.
As the world comes to understand that there will be no full return to pre-Covid-19 ways of life, we have a unique moment and opportunity to reshape not just the way humanity engages with itself, but how we engage with the most important global resource we have — the natural environment.
The ocean is often overlooked and undervalued, but it is an important contributor to the global economy. If it were a state, the ocean would be the world’s seventh-largest economy with a GDP equivalent to $2.5 trillion, or 5% of global GDP. Its assets are valued at more than $24 trillion; it supports the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people; and it provides the primary protein for more than 2.5 billion people. An economy this large should be safeguarded, and yet climate change and unsustainable global practices are damaging its health.
Pascal Lamy is a former director-general of the World Trade Organization and currently president of the Paris Peace Forum.