We, the International Youth Media Agency, talked with Bonun Li, young Chinese activist who came to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
His role here in Lima is as observer. Bonun is part of an NGO called Global Youth Low Carbon Action, linked to the Climate Action Network, a network of organizations that deal primarily with the environment and climate change.
These two weeks of the Conference, he has held meetings in the China Pavilion, participated in side events and created opportunities to meet and exchange ideas and information about China’s role in the negotiations.
A few weeks ago, an agreement was signed between the US and China on reducing emissions. What is this agreement about?
- Every year, members of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (including 21 states bordering the Pacific) meet to talk about various subjects. This year the meeting place was Beijing, which led China to be more proactive and take the opportunity to promote an agreement with the United States. Although the Climate Change has not been the main theme of the meeting, an agreement was signed on reducing emissions with the United States. The latter pledged to reduce emissions by 25-28% by 2025.
The Chinese government, in turn, has another plan of action. The idea is to peak emissions in 2030 to then start to decline. That does not mean they are not already establishing policies to reduce emissions. Throughout this process, economic growth will continue its development, but with a different rate from that of emissions (rate that will become then reverse, when in 2030 the economy is expected to grow and should reduce emissions).
What do you think about that?
- We have been criticized, for example by Australia, who’s sceptical about how this peak will be achieved and about why we should wait another 15 years. But I am confident and I think on the first part of 2015 the Chinese government will have a detailed plan. Now he is encouraging the use of technologies to reduce emissions. Coal for example, is widely used, but China is seeking to change its structure in the direction of renewable sources. We Chinese are very pleased to be talking about these issues. The issue of pollution is really bad. Especially in large cities, air quality and respiratory difficulties are a general alarm signal.
Is there in China sufficient access to information and therefore an open debate on environmental issues?
- People have access to the information given by the government. But this is not seen as a limitation, since the environmental issues are very delicate and the technical choices cannot be understood by all. It is also true that all the negative reviews are blocked and that the government does not allow them to be read. However, the agreement signed was appreciated both inside and outside China, so there are no problems from this point of view.
So there is involvement and interest of the general population on environmental issues?
- Certainly. Our cities are heavily polluted, in some there is too much pollution for most of the year, people struggle to breathe and there are diseases clearly related to pollution. Thus, the attention of people to this is very high. Precisely for this reason, people most enthusiastically welcomed this first commitment of the government, although it is still too little for some. But at least it’s a start.
What is the involvement of young people in environmental issues?
- To begin with, there is a wide network: the China Youth Climate Action Network, which deals with climate change and that is part of the Climate Action Network. In addition, there are many Low Carbon Action associations, dedicated to reducing emissions, which have also contacts with various Chinese universities. There are also many organizations dealing with the environment and nature, others are specialized in climate. They organize cultural activities, expert lectures on how to protect the environment and, more generally, on the situation of climate change. There is also a wide network of activists supporting exchanges and organizing events such as workshops for the COP20. Here, for example, are present 20 Chinese students sent to be climate ambassadors and bring to China a greater international awareness. There are also several partnerships between the US and China. In short, initiatives abound!
What about education in schools?
- In primary schools there is nothing relevant being organized, while in private schools there are programs to sensitize students about environmental issues. Some of the associations that work with environmental issues organize meetings in schools to plant trees, hold forums and meetings on issues. In addition, there are student organizations to promote environmental awareness.
Are there mechanisms such as incentives that encourage private investment for energy efficiency and the use of alternative energy?
- Yes, there are some incentive mechanisms such as tax reductions for certain types of investment, but this is still not very widespread. Industries and the carbon market are being more prioritized, or the payment for a right to a possible increase in emissions by buying this possibility in the carbon market. It will take time to consolidate these mechanisms, as they are not yet mature.
In conclusion, there is still much to do, but I believe that China is in the right direction.
Alice Tomaselli and Silvia Debiasi, Youth Press Agency.