NGOs discuss role in tackling climate change

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While memories of last year’s floods are still fresh in people’s memories, various parts of China have experienced droughts and wildfires this summer. The extreme weather has put limits on supplies of water and electricity, with temperatures frequently passing 40 degrees Celsius.

Poyang Lake, which is China’s largest freshwater lake, dried up due to a persistent drought. Hundreds of thousands of fish died on the riverbed.

Guangdong is another region affected. In July, residents in the province experienced 22 days of persistent high temperatures, the longest period of hot weather since 1951.

During the extreme weather, the 3rd Symposium on the Climate Change of Pearl River Delta Region opened in the city of Guangzhou, on Aug 24.

Dozens of climate experts, academics, NGO practitioners and other guests gathered together to discuss how NGOs could participate in climate change under the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (the 2035 National Strategy) released this May, covering disaster prevention and mitigation, urban and rural community development, health and many other fields.

The symposium was sponsored by Beijing Green Sunshine Environmental Protection Public Welfare Foundation, co-hosted by Guangdong Harmony Community Foundation, and funded by Vanke Foundation.

Yuan Jiashuang, deputy director of the National Climate Center of the China Meteorological Administration, interpreted the latest research results of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, as well as the 2035 National Strategy.

She said that compared with past government strategic plans, the current policies place more emphasis on how cities could adapt to climate change, strengthen risk monitoring, early warning, and management.

Du Yaodong, chief technical engineer of Guangdong Meteorological Bureau, gave a comprehensive introduction to the monitoring, forecasting and early warning work of Guangdong Climate Center, from the improvement and deployment of hardware, to the construction of software, including the establishment of an early warning system and multi-department linkage system.

He revealed that Guangdong Province’s Regulations on the Protection and Development and Utilization of Climate Resources is expected to be released this year to promote peak carbon and carbon neutrality goals.

Yu Dong from One Foundation has been engaged in disaster relief for more than 10 years. He argued that disaster prevention is far more important than disaster response. “Prevention of disaster risks can promote community self-help and mutual rescue, so as to better protect the lives and dignity of residents.”

Zheng Huan from the ICLEI Beijing Representative Office also agreed that local communities are important stakeholders in climate change response. She introduced the example of ICLEI’s cooperation with domestic and foreign government departments to build resilient cities in recent years, as well as related assessment systems .

Professor Ma Wenjun from Jinan University pointed out that the policies formulated by government departments can hardly be implemented at the grass-roots level without NGOs’ participation in identifying target groups and providing services acceptable to residents.

Cheng Mian from Vanke Foundation said there are already many relevant studies and policies, but practical explorations are still lacking. That’s why Vanke Foundation focuses on the practice of innovative methods, to encourage more ordinary people to help protect the environment.

Guangzhou Harmony Community Foundation launched the Climate Pioneer Action last year, inviting community residents to participate in climate protection. Several pioneer representatives attended the symposium to introduce their work.

Climate pioneers from six communities in Guangzhou, Foshan, Shenzhen and other cities encouraged the residents around them to plant community gardens, and to participate in climate education to enhance environmental awareness and the ability to cope with extreme weather.

The guests reached a consensus that climate risk is always composed of multiple disasters, affecting various areas. Therefore, action cannot be taken unilaterally by the government. NGOs, regardless of their field, need to integrate environmental protection into their work to promote the participation of multiple stakeholders.