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Climate change activities in China

Author Guoyu Ren outlines research activities on climate change in China. The author is Associate Professor at the National Climate Center of the China Meteorological Administration.

CHINA has, in recent years, paid much attention to climatic monitoring and research in responding to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Significant progress has been made in the research of climatic change, the monitoring of the climatic system and climatic change, and China's involvement in international activities concerning climate change.

Assessments of climate change and its impacts constitute the scientific basis for response policies to adapt to and mitigate the human-induced changes. In order to reduce the uncertainties in climate change and its impacts, and to raise the reliability of climatic prediction, two national research projects were initiated by the government during the period of the Eighth Five-Year Plan.

The first project is the "Study of trends in the life-supporting environment in China over the coming 20 to 50 years." The second project is "A study of global climate change, its impacts and the response strategies."

Two other related projects are "Climatic dynamics and climatic prediction theory" and the "Study on the theory and methods of the short-term climate prediction."

In addition to these major studies, a number of cooperative research projects were initiated with financial support from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the United States government.

Four of these studies are: national response strategies for global climate change; issues and options in greenhouse gas emissions; China country study; and, Asia least-cost greenhouse gas abatement strategy.

Valuable achievements have arisen from these research activities. The following list indicates some of the substantial progress made.

  • The development and perfection of the technique used for monitoring the baseline concentration of the main greenhouse gases in China.
  • Precise measurements of the baseline concentration for the main greenhouse gases in representative regions of the country.
  • Reconstruction of the palaeo-climatic changes for the past 20 thousand years in northern China.
  • Development of biological, forestry and agricultural assessment models and the preliminary simulations performed using these models.

To enhance the research work of climate change and the operational services aimed to reduce natural disaster, the China Meteorological Administration established the National Climate Center in January 1995, with the approval of the State Council of China. The National Climate Center has played an important role in monitoring and understanding human-induced global climate change.

At present, the Center is making efforts to fulfil the major tasks raised earlier in its preparation stage. These are to "play a key role in the understanding of the human-induced changes in climate and environment" and "to become an advisor for the succeeding activities of the UN Conference on Environment and Development relative to climate changes and the possible impacts on economy and society." During the next Five-Year Plan period, the National Climate Center will continue to cooperate with domestic universities and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in research activities of global climate change.

In order to raise the ability to monitor the climatic system and climate change, efforts are being made by the China Meteorological Administration to construct an automatically observing system for the atmosphere and to improve the network of existing standard weather stations in the country.

The China Meteorological Administration also intends to carry out more baseline measurements of the trace gases and increase coverage of upper air observation. Waliguan Global Atmosphere Watch Baseline Observation in Qinghai Province is the first one for measuring the baseline concentration of trace gases in central continental Asia. The station works well and the data obtained is being submitted to the World Data Center for Global Greenhouse Gases of the World Meteorological Organization.

China also has attached much importance to the programme of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). An expert has been appointed to take part in the Joint Scientific and Technical Committee of GCOS and the China GCOS Committee is to be formed, with the China Meteorological Administration as the leader and related ministries as its members.

For more than a decade, the China Meteorological Administration and other ministries have been involved in a series of international activities concerning the global warming problem. We not only participated in all the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meetings, but also invited more than 100 Chinese scientists to take part in the writing, reviewing and revising of each of the reports.

The work conducted by the Chinese government and experts has significantly contributed to the assessment of climatic change, impacts, and response strategies. We also sent delegations to participate in each meeting of the International Negotiating Committee, the Conference of the Parties I and II, and other subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Varied sectors are involved in the issue of climate change and it is recognized that close cooperation among different ministries is needed. In 1990, the National Coordination Group on Climate Change was set up under the State Council Environmental Protection Committee to coordinate the climate-related activities of the ministries concerned.

Led by State Councillor, Professor Song Jian, the National Coordination Group on Climate Change is constituted with leaders from 18 ministries, such as the State Planning Commission, the State Scientific and Technological Commission, the Foreign Ministry, the State Educational Commission, and the National Environmental Protection Agency. The Secretariat is placed within the China Meteorological Administration.

Four working groups have been formed under the National Coordination Group on Climate Change to be responsible for the specific tasks. They are: the Working Group for Scientific Assessments; the Working Group for Impacts and Strategies; the Working Group for Economic Analyses; and, the Working Group for Negotiation. Since its founding in 1990, the National Coordination Group has taken an active role in promoting and coordinating the participation of the ministries in tackling the problem of global climate change.

China is paying more attention to the harmonic relationship between economic development and environmental protection. The government will take protection of the global climate and environment as one of its key tasks for the realization of sustainable development in coming decades and beyond.

Through improving energy efficiency, switching to low-carbon fossil fuels, promoting afforestation and more effective land use and management, continuing to put population growth under control, and increasing support for monitoring and scientific research, China will make a greater contribution to the protection of the environment and the global climate.

Further information

Guoyu Ren, National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, 46 Baishiqiao Road, Beijing 100081, PR China. Fax: 86-10-2176804.

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