China, ecological civilisation, and green economy vision: 2021 and beyond

Date: Monday, 1 March 2021
Where: Online
Aerial view of Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China (Photo: Aftab Uzzaman via FlickrCC BY-NC 2.0)

This IIED Debates event on Monday, 1 March explored the role of ‘eco-civilisation’ in China’s environmental leadership and what is required for China to become a global force for green economic transition in 2021 and beyond.

As governments around the world move to green their economies in the next decade – including shaping green recoveries from COVID-19 – China’s policy and governance approaches loom larger than ever.

China’s size and remarkable economic growth has given rise to sharply contrasting trends in its green economy transition. It has nearly half of the world’s coal power stations, but also more installed renewable energy than any other country.

The Chinese Communist Party, especially under President Jinping, has been alive to the fact that rapid industrialisation has exacted a heavy environmental cost.

Recognising growing public anger over environmental issues as a genuine threat to China’s domestic stability, ‘ecological civilisation’ has been enshrined as a national strategic priority and been a foundation for domestic reforms of environmental and economic governance.

What has been less clear is the role ‘eco-civilisation’ might play internationally, through its alignment or divergence from ‘green economy’ and ‘inclusive green growth’ agendas promoted around the world by NGOs and UN agencies, or ‘green deals’ emerging in the United States and Europe.

This question is particularly pressing in the ‘super year’ of 2021 with a pivotal climate COP26, the China-hosted Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 in Kunming, and the imminent release of China’s 14th five-year plan (FYP).

In this IIED Debates event, hosted in partnership with the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), on Monday, 1 March 2021,we heard researchers and experts on China and green economy discuss China’s unique approach to green economic policy, and reflected on the themes of the GEC paper ‘Engaging with China's ecological civilisation: a pathway to a green economy?' (PDF), authored by IIED’s Lila Buckley.

The speakers discussed the implications of eco-civilisation for policy outcomes in the 14th FYP, as well as international development financing and key international processes (UNFCCC, CBD, Sustainable Development Goals) in 2021 and beyond.


Juliette Tunstall (, IIED's internal engagement and external events officer