It is reasonable to expect that the impressive economic growth that China has experienced over the past three decades will continue in the foreseeable future as the country continues to urbanize and rebalance its economy. The traditional economic development model, based mainly on the production of goods for export and high levels of fixed investment, is set to be supplemented with one featuring increased domestic consumption. This realignment will be an opportunity to further improve the resource use and energy efficiency of China’s economy. Furthermore, boosting domestic consumption could contribute to the achievement of a moderately well-off society (xiaokang shehui) by increasing quality of life and contributing to the creation of a socially just and politically stable “Beautiful China”.
The concept of an Ecological Civilization was added to the Communist Party of China (CPC) constitution during the 18th National Congress, which has catalysed numerous national initiatives to facilitate the advancement of a circular economy as well as the design of low-carbon technologies and cities. However, sustainable urbanisation and green development cannot be achieved through technological solutions alone, great attention must be paid to avoid unsustainable consumption patterns. As China’s new urban middle classes are set out to become the main driving engine for China’s future economic growth, the integration of sustainable consumption into the urbanization process is a crucial prerequisite for further development. This means that consumers will opt for high-quality green goods and services with low environmental impact, instead of spending on resource and energy intensive goods and services with little social benefits, and avoid excessive over consumption of goods. Yet another challenge concerns China’s rural citizens, who will need to benefit from the next phase of China’s economic growth, which means increasing their levels of consumption.
Sino-German Environmental Partnership
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) the Sino-German Environmental Partnership project supports the Chinese partners in the areas of sustainable consumption and green development, environmental labelling and green public procurement (GPP).
Cooperation with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE):
In 2009, GIZ and the Environmental Development Center of MEE signed a “Memorandum of Understanding on joint activities concerning the cooperation on Low-Carbon Product Certification” to deepen the understanding of the different prerequisites and conditions and existing barriers to climate protection-related improvements and the labelling of energy-related products, which exist in China, Europe and Germany. In this process, the relevant provisions on labelling requirements play an unusually powerful and ultimately decisive role. Over all these years, GIZ has supported capacity building measures for Chinese technical personnel in the areas of standards formulation and certification procedures of the German Blue Angel eco labelling standard, as well as German Green Public Procurement (GPP) and the harmonization of Sino-German common standards of environmental labelling. Furthermore, it helped German institutions to gain an improved understanding of the Chinese environmental labelling system, its stakeholders, processes, achievements and constraints and also an improved understanding of Chinese activities in the field of GPP.
Cooperation with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED):
In 2012-2013, the project supported theTask Force (TF) on Sustainable Consumption and Green Development established by the CCICED in September 2012. The TF team consisting of international and Chinese experts jointly conducted research on the relationship between sustainable consumption and green development, priority fields of sustainable consumption and on how to build and improve legislation and institutional arrangements to promote sustainable consumption. The policy recommendations compiled by this TF were presented at the CCICED 2013 Annual General Meeting, and the following main recommendations have been submitted to the Chinese government:
1. Incorporate sustainable consumption as an important element of Ecological Civilization construction.
2. Promote innovation through sustainable consumption policy and institutional systems.
3. Foster sustainable consumption partnerships, with participation by stakeholders.