China updates its national strategy for climate adaptation

On 13 June, 17 ministries jointly released China’s new climate adaptation strategy up to the year 2035 – a major update on the original published in 2013.

The 50-page National Climate Adaptation Strategy sounds a warning about the gravity of climate impacts now and in the near future, and sets out key areas in which to strengthen China’s ability to adapt to a warming world.

Compared to the original, the new strategy emphasises “proactive adaptation” in order to strengthen China’s abilities to actively prepare for, rather than passively respond to, climate impacts. A key component of this proactive approach is strengthening monitoring and assessment of climate risks.

The protection of food security and “climate-sensitive sectors” are newly highlighted. The strategy clearly recognises the threats faced by agriculture and prescribes closer risk assessments for food production in the future. It also identifies potential climate impacts to supply chains, financial sectors and energy supply as deserving particular policy attention. The risk-management capabilities of industrial, financial and energy sectors have become a key aspect of China’s climate change readiness, according to the strategy.       

“Floods and droughts, the shrinking of glaciers and permafrost, the expansion of glacial lakes, and increased instability in water resources have clearly been on the increase,” the strategy states. It goes on to set region-specific priorities for shoring up climate adaptation capabilities. For coastal regions in southern China, for example, more emphasis is put on preparedness for heat waves and ocean-related risks. 

According to Xu Huaqing and Zhou Zeyu, from government think tank the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, “on average China suffers direct economic losses to the tune of around 300 billion yuan (US$45 billion) per year as a result of extreme weather events.” 

The strategy concludes that “as an important non-traditional security threat, the long-term negative impacts of climate change are a great risk in China’s advancement of socialist modernisation.”  

Read our 2017 series of articles on climate adaptation in China.