Climate Change System‐Wide Capacity Development Intervention in China


Around the world, the challenge of achieving the MDGs while dealing with climate change relies increasingly on wellfunctioning multi-disciplinary and composite institutions. In some cases, such institutions are created ex-novo as coordinating agencies; in other countries and contexts, existing institutions are taking on more and more complex crosscutting issues and roles. Climate change in itself cannot be dealt with as a single sector problem, involving, as it does, sustainable livelihoods, cleaner technologies for development, energy-saving delivery services and resilience building.

This remains true for one of the largest, and of the fastest, developing countries in the world: China. Since the 2002 UN Conference on Environment and Development, China altered its traditional development path to emphasize sustainability and realized that the coordinated development of the economy, population, natural resources is critical to the Xiaokang (“Harmonious”) Society it now envisages. The latest (11th) Five Year Plan (2006-2010) accommodates environmental protection and social-economic development in one organic and integrated system, where environmental protection is enshrined in a more important strategic position. As an example, the 11th Plan includes a new Five Year Plan for Environment Protection. To implement such plan, in 2008 China officially upgraded the State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA) to a new Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).

The establishment, in June 2007, of the “Leading Group for Energy Conservation and Pollution Abatement”, led directly by Premier Wen Jiabao, and the launch of China's first ever National Climate Change Programme, attest to the commitment of the Government of China to strengthen its institutional capacity in the area of climate change, as well as its ownership over the capacity development agenda.


Within this new path toward environmental-friendly sustainable development in China, the implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) within the Kyoto protocol stands out as a good example of a capacity development approaches which encompasses individuals and institutions, and central and local levels. While awareness, knowledge and skills on CDM were enhanced in specific target groups (project developers/investors, local government officers, industries and researches), capacities of institutions were strengthen through tailored assessments and an alignment of government policies, enterprises and financial institutions.

The main focus was kept on how to use CDM to support other national development objectives such as poverty alleviation, and, geographically, least developed areas were identified as pilots. The approach above seems to have generated a ripple effect, with many other development initiatives 1) addressing the linkages between poverty and environmental aspects, and 2) recognizing the importance of reinforcing the coordination/institutional aspect.

For example, the UNDP-supported “Poverty Reduction through Green Development project” (2006-2010), set up crosssectoral advisory mechanisms that allowed exploring models for poverty reduction alongside sustainable use of natural resources.

At the national level, partners included the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Finance (MOF), the State Council’s Leading Group on Poverty Reduction (LBOPR), the MEP and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

At the local level, the project is currently aiming at studying and consequently enhancing/setting up the necessary institutional structures and coordination mechanism which can facilitate the achievement of the initiative goals. A subproject is exploring how to utilize available science and technologies as major inputs for the development of local communities (mainly Ethnic Minorities groups), where ‘Green Poverty Alleviation’ (GPA) strategies combine poverty alleviation measures with eco environmental improvement and rural energy development.


The partnership developed in the last 10-15 years between the Government of China and UNDP resulted primarily in:

  • Drafting and adoption of China’s national CDM laws and regulations;
  • strengthened institution ability to implement CDM projects;
  • establishment of an inter-ministerial Designated National Authority for CDM at the national level;
  • establishment of 12 provincial CDM Service Centers at the local level in the western regions of China to provide technical services to local enterprises;
  • the restructuring of the Ministry of Environment, the clear definition of set targets and the establishment of processes, procedures, systems and related state entities to timely achieve them;
  • a new approach which emphasize the importance of cross-sector cooperation, moving beyond climate change resilient development and poverty reduction to other developmental challenges, e.g. linkages between environment and health and the establishment of an Annual multi-stakeholder National Forum on Environment and Health and the launch of the first “National Environment and Health Action Plan” (CNEHAP).
Year of publication: 
UNDP Capacity is Development: Stories of Institutions
Themes and sectors: 
Climate change

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