i. Climate change context
The People’s Republic of China has a territory of about 9.6 million km2. China has 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). This country profile provides information on China’s approach to mainstreaming climate change education and communication on a national level. The profile gives examples of provincial-level initiatives only when relevant and reported by the country in its official communications.
According to the World Bank, China is affected by increases in storms, droughts, floods, land subsidence, and landslides due to climate change. China’s National Climate Change Programme (2007) indicated that the annual average temperature increased by 0.5–0.8 °C over the past 100 years.
China has a population of 1.4 billion people and emitted 7.4 t CO2 per person in 2020, according to the Global Carbon Atlas. China’s 3rd National Communication (2018) lists the largest emitting sectors as energy (78.6%), industry (12.3%), agriculture (7.9%), and waste (1.2%).
China is classified as a Non-Annex I country in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). China ratified the Kyoto Protocol in August 2002 and the Paris Agreement in September 2016. China accepted the Doha Amendment in June 2014. The amendment also applies to the Basic Law of Hong Kong and the Basic Law of Macau.
ii. Relevant government agencies
The Department of Climate Change at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is the main agency for climate change in China. It provides guidance for the government, monitors China’s emissions, represents China at the UNFCCC, and carries out other tasks related to managing climate change.
To effectively address climate change issue, the Chinese government established the National Leading Group to Address Climate Change in June 2007. The Leading Group is based on the former National Coordination Committee on Climate Change, as a cross-department coordination organization for climate change, energy conservation, and emissions reduction in China. The main tasks of the Leading Group are to 1) develop major national strategies, policies, and countermeasures on climate change; 2) make overall arrangements for the work of climate change; 3) study and review international cooperation and negotiate counter-proposals; and 4) coordinate in solving significant problems found in work on climate change. The National Authority Department does the concrete work of the Leading Group.
To further clarify how to facilitate carbon trade, the Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutrality Leading Group was created in 2021, led by the Vice Premier of the State Council.
In 2021 the Ministry of Ecology and Environment set up the Climate Leading Group to prepare the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035. The Group is an expert advisory committee for preparing the Strategy. The Group puts a strong focus on providing adaptation measures for regions heavily affected by climate change.
The National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation is affiliated with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The Center conducts research on strategy for national and international cooperation and exchange in response to climate change. The Center’s responsibilities include 1) organizing and conducting research on climate change policies, regulations, strategies, and planning; 2) undertaking technical support work in domestic compliance, statistical accounting and assessment, carbon emissions trading management, international negotiations, foreign cooperation, and exchanges; 3) conducting dialogue, publicity, capacity building and consulting services of climate change; and 4) managing Clean Development Mechanism projects. Implementation of Clean Development Mechanism cooperation projects must be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission.
The Clean Development Mechanism Project Review Board is organized by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Leader), with participation by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the China Meteorological Administration.
At the time of this review, China had not designated a national Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point.
Education and communication
The Ministry of Education is responsible for education in general in China, including training and vocational education (TVET). The Ministry’s working plan of 2022 includes promoting green and low-carbon education in general education and disseminating the Action Plan on Strengthening the Construction of Carbon-Neutral Talent Training System (2022).
The Curriculum Textbook Research Institute, within the Ministry of Education, was created in 2021. The Institute is responsible for developing curricula and study plans. In 2022, the Institute issued a new set of curricula, many of which include climate change issues.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is responsible for labor and training, offering training and vocational education programs. Climate change topics are found on the Ministry’s website.
The State Council Information Office is the chief information office of the Chinese government. The Office published news about climate change and liaises with other countries.
The Center for Environmental Education and Communications of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has four sections: Communication, Education, Audiovisual, and Training. It develops guidelines and communication materials. Within the Center is the China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Center a library that collects information on environmental protection issues.
As a public institution with independent legal status, the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning focuses on environmental strategic planning at the national and local levels.
iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans
In 1992, the Chinese government developed the Chinese Agenda 21. This Agenda emphasizes the importance of setting a sustainable development strategy, including laws, economic policies, principles, and positions to participate in international society. Climate change adaptation was first mentioned in this document.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states in Article 26 that “The state shall protect and improve living environments and the ecological environment, and prevent and control pollution and other public hazards (…).” Several others laws protecting the environment have been issued in China, highlighting the important role of the environment.
The Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (enacted 1989, amended 2014) mainstreams environmental protection into governments at all levels. The Law ensures responsibility for supervising environmental protection, improving public participation procedures, and facilitating the participation and monitoring of environment protection by citizens, legal persons, and other organizations. Climate change is not specifically mentioned, but the purpose of the law is “protecting and improving the environment, preventing and controlling pollution and other public hazards, safeguarding public health, promoting the construction of ecological civilization, and promoting sustainable economic and social development” (Article 1).
The Renewable Energy Law (2005) aims to promote the development and use of renewable energy, while simultaneously increasing the energy supply and protecting the environment, as well as achieving sustainable economic and social development. In August 2006, the State Council issued the Decision to Strengthen Energy Conservation. Together, those documents serve as the policy and legal guarantee to strengthen China’s climate action.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (2022) aims to strengthen information sharing and support, encouraging all sectors and local governments to improve climate change adaptation abilities. Compared to the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (2013–2020), Strategy 2035 plans and requires higher monitoring and risk management ability on climate change, specifically planning adaptation tasks for the natural ecosystem and social system. Strategy 2035 integrates adaptation plans with city strategic plans and emphasizes greater attention to capacity building and international cooperation. Strategy 2035 is China’s third climate change strategy since China’s National Plan for Addressing Climate Change (2007–2010).
The China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011–2030) includes as a priority Area 8: To increase the ability to cope with climate change. One document principle is that
Communication and education on biodiversity conservation should be strengthened and local communities and the general public should be encouraged to participate more actively and widely in biodiversity conservation. Access to information and media supervision should be strengthened, and effective mechanisms should be established to allow the participation of the whole society in biodiversity conservation (p. 9).
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the National Development and Reform Commission declared Action Plans for Cities to Adapt to Climate Change (2016) and the Notice on Printing and Distributing the Pilot Work of Climate-Adaptation City Construction (2017). The Action Plans and Notice indicate that cities with high population density and high economic concentration are particularly affected by climate change, and they develop a climate change strategy for highly urbanized cities.
The National Development and Reform Commission and other relevant departments issued the Implementation Opinions on Creating a Better Development Environment for Supporting the Healthy Development of Private Energy-saving and Environmental Protection Enterprises (2020). They also promote implementation of the Green Industry Directory (2019 Edition), nudging policies and limited funds to the industries that are critical to promote green development.
China set the goal of not increasing its emissions after 2030. The Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking before 2030 (2021) clarifies the goals and tasks of regions, fields, and industries to accelerate green changes in production and lifestyles. The Action Plan promotes economic and social development based on the efficient use of resources and green low-carbon development, to achieve China’s carbon peak target by 2030.
The Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions (2021), published by the State Council Information Office, recognizes that climate change is a common challenge for all humanity. It notes that China attaches great importance to addressing climate change and has implemented a series of strategies, measures, and actions to address climate change. This publication emphasizes that no matter how the international situation changes, China will keep its promises; continue to adhere to multilateralism; and cooperate to promote the comprehensive, balanced, effective, and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement to build the shared future for humankind. According to this publication, China puts people at the center of its climate change policies and actions.
Climate change has been incorporated into the national economic and social development plan in China, in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011–2015), the 13th Five Year Plan (2016–2020), and the 14th Five Year Plan (2021–2025). The 14th Five Year Plan and the 14th Five Year Plan on Modern Energy Systems (2022) indicate that CO2 emissions per unit of gross domestic product will be reduced by 18% in five years (relative to 2020), the proportion of non-fossil fuel energy consumption will increase to about 20% by 2025, and the proportion of non-fossil fuel energy power generation will reach about 39%. The 14th Five Year Plan on Modern Energy Systems (2022) further notes that improving the level of electrification and having electricity account for about 30% of final energy consumption will achieve significant energy conservation and consumption reduction. Aligned with the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–2025) for National Economic and Social Development, the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, and decisions at the Central Economic Working Conference and the 9th Meeting of the Central Finance and Economics Committee, China has committed to even greater efforts to combat climate change. China will implement more proactive and comprehensive national strategies, accelerate the process of achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality, construct a green and circular economic system, and promote the transformation and upgrading of economic, energy and industrial structure. China will integrate the work on addressing climate change and protecting ecology and environment to achieve synergies.
Education and communication
The Citizens Ecological Environment Code of Conduct (2018) advocates 10 articles for citizens to become active in building an ecological environment: 1) pay attention to the ecological environment, 2) save energy resources, 3) practice green consumption, 4) choose low-carbon transportation, 5) sort garbage, 6) reduce pollution, 7) take care of the natural ecological environment, 8) participate in environmental practices, 9) participate in civil activities of supervision and report, and 10) build a beautiful China.
In 2003 the Ministry of Education released the Guidelines for the Implementation of Environment Education in Primary and Secondary Schools. Climate change is included in the Guidelines’ curriculum plan for Grades 10–12 and students are expected to be able to explain the causes of environmental changes.
In 2016, the Core Competencies and Values for Chinese Students’ Development was released. One of the 18 targets in the Competencies emphasized nurturing global awareness and an open mind in students. The Competencies advocate a cognitive understanding of the progress of human civilization and the development of the world. Students are expected to be able to respect the diversity and differences of the world’s multiculturalism and actively participate in cross-cultural exchanges. The Competencies expect students to pay attention to the global challenges facing humankind and understand the connotations of building the community with a shared future for humanity.
In 2022, the Ministry of Education released the Compulsory Education Curriculum Program and Curriculum Standards, which are significantly revised from the Compulsory Education Curriculum Program (2001) and Compulsory Education Curriculum Standards (2011). The 11 documents released in 2022 lay out the government’s education reform. The Science and Geography curricula and others include terms related to climate change, such as ‘green’ and ‘carbon.’
The Notice on Issuing the ‘Beautiful China, I am an Actor’ Action Plan to Raise Citizens’ Ecological Civilization Awareness (2021–2025) is an action plan to increase active participation of citizens in nature conservation.
The 14th Five-Year Vocational Skills Training Plan (2021–2025), published by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, lays out China’s plans to further develop its vocational training and education system. Environmental protection is part of the Plan.
The Action Plan for Strengthening the Construction of Carbon Peak and Carbon-Neutral Talent Training System in Higher Education (2022), published by the Ministry of Education, provides guidelines for China to train a green workforce to reach its goal of halting increases in emissions by 2030. This includes low-carbon education and skills training in technical and vocational institutions and in higher education.
iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication
The Guidelines for the Implementation of Environment Education in Primary and Secondary Schools (2003) uses ‘environment education’ and aligns the term with the Declaration of Thessaloniki (1997), which recognized environment education as ‘education for the environment and sustainability.’ In general, protection of the environment is a key principle in many Chinese policies. Environmental education, according to the Guidelines, is defined as:
Comprehensiveness: … from the perspective of the learning process, environment education helps students comprehensively understand the environmental system from various perspectives and master the close interaction between the social environment and ecological environment. (n.p.)
Practical: environment education emphasizes that students discover and create knowledge through personal experience; develop innovative ability and critical and reflective ability in the process of solving real environmental problems; enhance communication and understanding in participation, and form correct environmental values, promote the development of students’ social practice ability, form healthy lifestyle in harmony with the environment, and enhance the awareness of actively participating in decisions and actions related to the environment and sustainable development. (n.p.)
The document titled Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions (2021) stresses that China aims to popularize climate change knowledge with the public and actively highlight ecological civilization education, including climate change and green development. ‘Ecological civilization’ is a term frequently used in the Chinese climate action framework.
The Compulsory Education Curriculum Program and Curriculum Standards (2022) uses terms such as ‘human and global relation’ ‘human and nature life community’ ‘life safety and health’ to refer to topics related to climate change.
Besides the technical terms, China also uses a phrase advocated by President Xi: “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” This means that instead of materials and money, clean rivers/water and beautiful mountains are the valuable assets. The phrase is often cited in policies and at events to raise awareness of climate change.
v. Budget for climate change education and communication
China approved the China Clean Development Mechanism Fund in 2006. This is noted as the first national-level fund dedicated to addressing climate change in China (n.p.). The fund aims to actively support policy research and capacity building in response to climate change while supporting emissions reductions through emerging industries, technologies, and markets. Free grants from the fund support strengthening capacity building and raising public awareness of climate change. As of December 31, 2015, a total of US$ 169 million (CNY 1.125 billion) had supported 522 grant projects, including policy research, capacity building, and advocacy for addressing climate change through low-carbon development at the national and local levels. Loans support industrial activities with broad application prospects, strong industry representation, and high technological maturity. Since the Fund launched in 2011, 210 loan projects have been reviewed and approved, covering 25 provinces (municipalities and autonomous regions) across China and supported with a total of US$ 2 billion (CNY 13.036 billion). Further investment includes US$ 9.6 billion (CNY 640.43 billion) of social funds.
In 2022, the Notice on Financial Support for Carbon Neutralization provided guidelines to enrich fiscal policy tools and build the fiscal and tax policy framework that benefits green and low-carbon development to 2025. The Notice’s target before 2030 is to gradually build long-term mechanisms of fiscal and tax policy framework. Before 2060, the goal is to finalize effective financial support to reach carbon neutrality.
The working targets for the Ministry of Education (2022) are that the national financial expenditure for education should be no less than 4% of gross domestic product, the general public budget for education should increase year by year, and the general public budget for education based on the average number of students in school should increase year by year. The increased investment in education should be used for weak areas and teachers’ salaries. No specific budget for climate change education and communication was found.
The 2022 budget for the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation details China’s spending on climate change. Education spending is listed under Other. The budget for Ecological Environment Monitoring and Information was US$ 73,000 (CNY 500,000).
i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education
Efforts to integrate environmental education in schools date back many years in China. The Guidelines for the Implementation of Environment Education in Primary and Secondary Schools (2003) clarified that environmental education was formally incorporated into schools in 1999. The Guidelines formally required nationwide efforts to integrate environmental education into the curricula and activities of primary and secondary schools. The targets of feelings, attitudes, and values in the Guidelines are
- Caring for nature and respecting life.
- Caring for and treating others with kindness; being able to actively, equally, and justly cooperate with others; respecting different viewpoints and opinions; and respecting cultural diversity.
- Being aware of the rights and obligations of citizens concerning the environment and desiring to build a sustainable future.
- Paying attention to the environment, actively participate in decision making and actions related to the environment, and being a responsible citizen.
Students in Grades 1–6 learn about the phenomena of ecological destruction and environmental pollution and to explain the importance of environmental protection. Students in Grades 7–9 learn that the elements of the natural environment are interrelated and restrict each other. They can explain the physical and chemical processes of environmental pollution. Students in Grades 10–12 must be able to explain large-scale and longer duration natural processes such as El Niño or La Niña. They must be able to describe chemical reactions in phenomena such as photochemical smog and ozone depletion, and use knowledge of CO2 sources and sinks to explain the effects of measures such as increasing forest cover and reducing CO2 emissions.
In 2021, China reformed its education system to strengthen the role of classroom and school education. The target of education is changing from ‘schooling’ to ‘learning.’ According to the explanation from the Department of Education Textbook Bureau, there are three significant changes: 1) The structure of the course content has been shifted based on the core competencies. The curricula keep the same content but combine interdisciplinary and holistic approaches. 2) Learning outcomes combine core competencies and course content. This is to help teachers and students clarify how much they have learned in different stages. 3) Guidance has been enhanced by suggestions and examples of how to teach, what to teach, and the extent of teaching.
Based on this education reform, China updated its National Curriculum Framework in 2022. The Compulsory Education Curriculum Program and Curriculum Standards include a new subject called Life Skills, which includes taking care of oneself. Respect for nature, protecting nature, and green development are part of the curriculum. Students learn about the relationships between humans and nature, including global warming, the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, and the importance of international cooperation in carbon emissions reduction. The Compulsory Curriculum Framework of Geography (2022) uses terms such as ‘human and global relation,’ ‘human and nature life community,’ and ‘life safety and health’ as topics related to climate change. ‘Human and nature life community’ is one core competency in Geography. Climate change and global warming are part of the Compulsory Curriculum Framework of Biology (2022). The Compulsory Curriculum Framework of Science (2022) also focuses on topics related to climate change, such as carbon, global warming, and greenhouse gases. China has a separate curriculum for secondary schools. The National Curriculum Framework of Geography for High School (2017) has a strong focus on climate change and the environment. A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile.
China’s 3rd National Communication (2018) states that “China should improve its education, publicity and training related to response to climate change, and enhance public awareness and public participation, which is a demand of lifestyle transformation from traditional production and consumption mode, and also is a requirement for fulfillment of the Convention.” (p. 180).
China’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) aim to incorporate low-carbon and green strategies into the national education system.
ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources
The Notice of Eight Departments, including the Ministry of Education on Printing and Distributing the Plan for Strengthening Teachers in Basic Education in the New Era (2022), emphasizes the importance of strengthening teachers’ ‘moral education.’ The Notice also emphasizes teacher training and capacity building in the countryside to reach education equality. No specific information on climate change communication and education is mentioned.
The Guidelines for the Implementation of Environment Education in Primary and Secondary Schools (2003) indicates that schools need to formulate a whole-school approach to environmental education, clarify the key points for each subject in different educational stages, strengthen consultations among teachers of each subject, reduce duplication among interdisciplinary teaching. Teachers from other disciplines should break through boundaries.
The Action Plan for Strengthening the Construction of Carbon Peak and Carbon-Neutral Talent Training System in Higher Education (2022) emphasizes strengthening the training of high-quality teachers in carbon peak and carbon neutrality.
In 2016 in Hong Kong, the Education Bureau launched an Inter-School Cross-Curricular Project Competition on Climate Change. As a result of this event, Hong Kong invited local and international experts, local schools, and government departments to organize a series of seminars, workshops, visits, and field studies on climate change to build students’ and teachers’ awareness on climate change.
The nongovernmental organization Friends of Nature is one of the first organizations in China focusing on environmental protection. Fiends of Nature has been providing teacher training on environmental topics and frequently organizes activities for people to take more action on climate change and environmental protection.
iii. Climate change in higher education
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (2022) sees the importance of climate adaptation measures in the local community and emphasizes promoting adaptation lectures on campus. The Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking before 2030 (2021) highlights that ecological education should be included in the formal education system.
The Action Plan for Strengthening the Construction of Carbon Peak and Carbon-Neutral Talent Training System in Higher Education (2022) aims to strengthen green and low-carbon education, including stronger and enhanced training of higher education teachers. For example, the Action Plan requires colleges and universities to participate in or set up national laboratories and national innovation centers related to carbon neutralization. The Action Plan guides colleges and universities to build several high-level national platforms for scientific research and strengthen basic theoretical and methodological research on the causes and impacts of climate change and on ecosystem carbon sinks. For carbon neutrality, the Action Plan advocates setting up a group of crucial research teams to focus on key carbon emissions reduction technologies. For international cooperation in higher education, the Plan encourages universities and academic institutions to organize training programs for undergraduates, masters, and doctoral students with world-class international partners and deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in clean energy and climate change innovation.
The Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning conducts strategic research on long-term environmental policy planning, CO2 emissions trading, climate change damage identification, and evaluation of pollution remediation engineering programs.
To reform mitigation and adaptation technology education, the Chinese Society For Environmental Sciences (founded in 1978) organized a forum on reform of engineering education and teaching for environmental majors (2022). This promotes discussion on an engineering education certification for environmental science, curriculum setting and syllabus, and graduation quality assurance.
Universities have established research centers and educational programs related to climate change, including Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Low-Carbon Development Research Center of Peking University, the Climate Change International Policy Research Center of Tsinghua University, and China Meteorological Administration- Nanjing University Joint Laboratory for Climate Forecast Research. China’s 3rd National Communication (2018) highlights that universities set up 222 second-level disciplines related to climate change and environmental protection in 2018 and established 196 research centers.
The document titled Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions (2021) mentions that in 2020 63 colleges and universities offered climate change-related undergraduate and postgraduate courses. China launched the First-Class Undergraduate Program in 2019, which selected 87 climate change-related majors at 81 colleges and universities (including Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nanjing University and Tianjin University) to pilot national first-class undergraduate majors. The Ministry of Education set up more than 100 climate change-related online courses at higher education institutions, available on platforms such as Chinese University MOOC and xuetangX. The document states that “Quality online courses such as China’s Perspective on Climate Change of Tsinghua University, Air Pollution Control of Tianjin University, Air Pollution Control Engineering of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and Climate Change and Human Society of Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, were included in the first batch of national first-class undergraduate courses by [the Ministry of Education] in 2020.”
Since 2019, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the China Meteorological Administration increased basic scientific research on climate change. Results include comprehensive observations of global change, data assimilation and big data platform construction and application, global change facts, and a series of assessment and research reports on climate change.
According to its 3rd National Communication (2018), China has several projects for higher education in climate change. “The Ministry of Education organized and constructed more than 60 open video courses and essential resources sharing courses related to atmospheric pollution control and ecological civilization construction for students to learn online, with the aim of raising their awareness of low-carbon and environmental protection.” (p. 169). Further, the Ministry offers environmental protection and emissions reduction courses at higher education institutions. Each year, the Ministry supports the College Students Energy Saving and Emission Reduction Social Practice and Science and Technology Competition, with themes od energy saving, emissions reduction, and green energy.
China’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) state that the country aims to use on- and off-campus educational spaces to promote climate action.
iv. Climate change in training and adult learning
The 14th Five-Year Vocational Skills Training Plan (2021–2025) states that subsidized vocational skills training was organized and provided to nearly 100 million people across China between 2016 and 2020. In 2019, the State Council allocated US$ 14.8 billion (CNY 100 billion) from the unemployment insurance fund to vocational training. The target between 2021 and 2025 is similar but focuses on high-skills training of over 8 million people as senior workers or with qualifications above vocational certificates. Vocational training for women was mentioned marginally, and no specific climate change-related information was mentioned.
The Chinese Society For Environmental Sciences, founded in 1978 with the approval of the China Association of Science and Technology and, is the earliest, largest, and highest academic science and technology society in the field of ecological environment in China. The Society has designed many adaptation training courses, such as carbon emissions consultants and traders training, sewage treatment facility operation professional and technical training course, environmental monitoring technician (water, soil, gas, noise technical specifications) training, and automatic monitoring of pollution sources operation and maintenance technology.
The Notice of the General Office of the Ministry of Education on Carrying out the Action to Improve the Ability of Vocational Education Teachers (2022) emphasizes vocational education training. This includes supporting mastery of unique skills (full-time and part-time) and majors in the new Vocational Education Major Catalog (2021) related to environment conservation. For example, a major in Intelligent Environment Protection Equipment Technology has been set up. Some names of majors have changed. For example, the major in Environment Conservation in the Countryside has changed to Ecological Conservation Technology, and the major in Cleaner Production and Emission Reduction Technology has changed to Green and Low-Carbon Technology. The major in Indoor Environment Detection and Control Technology has been incorporated into Environment Monitoring Technology.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and Tongji University began a collaboration in 2016 to increase climate change learning in China. A Mandarin Chinese version of the Introductory e-Course on Climate Change was developed through this collaboration. This course is available on the UN CC:e-Learn platform.
The National Strategy for Climate Adaptation (2014–2020) emphasizes capacity building to increase science education and publicity, including climate change adaptation content in primary education, higher education, and adult education. According to the Strategy, China carries out extensive publicity and popularization of adaptation knowledge to enhance public awareness and ability and to encourage participation of all people. China develops climate change training courses and seminars for governments at all levels, industry enterprises, consulting institutions, and scientific research institutes.
The document titled Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions (2021) highlights that in 2020 the Ministry of Education organized training materials to build capacity, on the topics of Causes of Climate Change; International Progress in Climate Change; Climate Change Policies, Actions and Technologies; Carbon Market and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting and Accounting; and Climate Investment and Finance. The Ministry of Education also held a training session for government employees. Climate change policies and relevant media reports are published by the Ministry of Education via Weibo and WeChat.
The Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking before 2030 (2021) emphasizes deepening government employees’ capacity building, incorporating learning on carbon-neutral policies into the employees’ training plan, and understanding the urgency, science, systems, and importance of the CO2 peak movement.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (2022) also emphasize adaptation skill training for agricultural producers and operators, including intelligent farmland drainage, water-saving irrigation, and planting resilient climate crops.
China’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) include training of government employees, businesses, and other organizations on the value of carbon-efficient practices.
i. Climate change and public awareness
The Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking before 2030 (2021) specifically highlights the importance of climate change communication and education. One of the 10 actions is to advocate for green and low-carbon actions by citizens. The Action Plan aims to enhance national awareness of conservation, environmental protection, and ecology consciousness; to advocate for a simple, moderate, green, low-carbon, civilized, and healthy lifestyle; and to transform green concepts into conscious actions of all citizens. Four focus methods are mentioned in the Plan: 1) strengthen the publicity and education of ecological civilization, 2) promote a green and low-carbon lifestyle, 3) guide enterprises to fulfill their social responsibilities, and 4) strengthen capacity building of government employees.
The Notice on Issuing the ‘Beautiful China, I am an Actor’ Action Plan to Raise Citizens’ Ecological Civilization Awareness (2021–2025) aims by 2025 to strengthen the concept of ‘lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,’ firmly establish and widely practice the social consensus of ‘harmonious coexistence between human and nature,’ transform the yearning for a better ecological environment into conscious action, and build green lifestyle. ‘Beautiful China’ is an action plan specifically to bring the ideas of environmental protection and the need for more citizen action to the population of China. Public awareness is a core principle in the plan.
The Guiding Opinions on Coordinating and Strengthening Work Related to Addressing Climate Change and Ecological Environmental Protection (2021) were disseminated by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to accelerate filling of the knowledge gap, creating policy tools and implementation measures. The Guiding Opinions aim to enhance basic capabilities and further promote synergies in addressing climate change, environmental governance, ecological protection, and restoration. To significantly improve climate governance capabilities from 2021 to 2025, they aim to formulate the overall structure of coordinating and integrating work related to climate change and ecological and environmental protection, especially on policy planning and standards, monitoring and evaluation, supervision, and accountability. For climate change communication and education, the Opinions emphasize strengthening capacity building, raising awareness of local party and government leaders, and strengthening capacity building personnel and technical support for addressing climate change.
China’s National Plan for Addressing Climate Change (2007) was developed as an essential obligation to align with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Plan clarified China’s goals, basic principles, critical areas, and policy measures to address climate change by 2010. In terms of climate change communication and education, the Plan indicated that government should play a role in promoting awareness of climate change, including adding content in climate change education into primary education, adult education, and higher education. The Plan also indicated that government should encourage and advocate sustainable lifestyles, such as conservation of electricity and water, recycling, and garbage sorting.
The National Strategy for Climate Adaptation (2014–2020) recognized that China’s climate change awareness and capacity were insufficient. The Strategy identified key tasks in various areas: infrastructure, agriculture, water resources, coastal regions, coastal waters, forests, other ecosystems, human health, tourism, and other industries. Three areas (urbanization, agricultural development, and ecological security) are emphasized for design of adaptation tasks. In terms of climate change communication and education, the Strategy mentions strengthening the health education system.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (2022) mentions using national parks, zoos, and natural conservation areas to promote mitigating measures and provide health and nutrition guidelines for priority populations under climate change conditions.
The Responding to Climate Change: China’s Policies and Actions (2021) document indicates that in 2020 China organized and carried out training on addressing climate change. The document also mentioned the “actively building beautiful China“ campaign. Public transportation and green travel are also core elements. More people are choosing green and low-carbon lifestyles such as cycling, walking, avoiding food waste, saving water, saving paper, saving electricity and energy, using environmentally friendly decorations, rejecting excessive packaging, and refusing single-use items. Other initiatives to raise awareness and train different groups are mentioned. For instance, in March 2020, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment published a policy briefing titled “Actively Responding to Climate Change.” The Ministry formulated and published four issues of the Newsletter on Addressing Climate Change in the Marine Sector and seven issues of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Research.
The China Youth Climate Action Network (registered as a Chinese NGO Guangzhou Yuexiu Climate Environmental Protection Exchange Center) focuses on empowering youth to take action and to advocate for tackling climate change. Over 500 Chinese universities and 100,000+ Chinese youth have taken actions to combat and raise awareness about climate change.
ii. Climate change and public access to information
Supported by the China Clean Development Mechanism Fund, the video Tackling climate change-China in action discusses the impacts of climate change and calls on the public to pay attention to climate change.
China Climate Change Info-Net is operated by the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. Their website offers climate change news and helps the public to access climate change data.
The 2022 program of College students on the move includes low-carbon volunteer service in rural areas, publicity on low-carbon culture in communities, low-carbon science and technology education on campus, and publicity on low-carbon production and implementation of enterprises. The information is accessible on Wechat ‘Environmental Science 365,’ Weibo ‘Environmental Science 365,’ and Chinese TikTok.
The Center for Environmental Education and Communications of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has four sections: Communication, Education, Audiovisual, and Training. It develops guidelines and communication materials. Within the Center is the China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Center a library that collects information on environmental protection issues.
China’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) aim to develop mechanisms to enhance information sharing systems across government organizations and with the public.
iii. Climate change and public participation
China’s National Plan for Addressing Climate Change (2007–2010) mentioned encouraging public participation. One example to establish an incentive mechanism for involving the public and the business community was to improve the channels, mass media, and systems for disseminating climate change information for public participation and supervision. Other examples were to increase the transparency of decision making on climate change, to promote the science and democratization of management in the field of climate change, to expect civil society groups and non-governmental organizations to actively play roles, and to promote participation of the public and all sectors of society in mitigating climate change.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 (2022) includes public participation and aims to reach a global ecological civilization. The goals of the Strategy are to encourage the whole society to participate consciously in climate adaptation. The Strategy also mentions strengthening extensive public participation and mobilizing social and community engagement to form a grid coordination mechanism for building climate change capacity. One of the Strategy’s four principles is joint governance, which includes resource sharing, information exchange, and promotion of participation by multiple actors to form synergies for climate change adaptation.
In 2020, the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, the Chinese Society For Environmental Sciences, and the Environmental Defense Fund co-organized the NGOs Consultation Webinar on China’s Ecological and Environmental Protection in the 14 the Five-Year Plan, on social forces. The advisory group discussed CO2 reduction, adaptation to climate change, ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, environmental governance, social action, and international cooperation.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the Central Civilization Office prepared the Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Development of Ecological Environment Volunteer Services (2021). This document recognizes volunteer services as an important force in socialist modernization and an important symbol of the extent of civilization in modern society. Volunteer services include organizing environment protection lectures; initiating green initiatives; organizing round-table dialogues; organizing and participating in nature observation and experience activities; civil supervising of ecological and environmental problems, violations, and behaviors that affect public health; and encouraging citizens to participate in international conferences on green development, climate change, biodiversity, and the Green Silk Road.
China’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) include the “Continuous Improvement of Social Participation Mechanism” (p. 42) as a core element for climate action. The mechanism aims to include the whole society in climate action.
i. Country monitoring
The China Collaborative Innovation Center for Quality Monitoring of Basic Education was set up in 2012 and accredited in 2014 by the Ministry of Education. The Center is responsible for primary education monitoring. It implemented a survey of 1.2 million fourth and eighth-grade students on the disciplines of Moral Education, Mandarin, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, Health, and Art in 31 provinces. Climate change communication and education have not yet been assessed.
China as a whole country did not participate in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment Global Competence tests. However, several cities, such as Hong Kong and Macau, participated. One of seven global issues on these tests is climate change and global warming. The mean index of students’ awareness of global issues for both Hong Kong and Macau was below OECD average scores.
Some students and volunteers have developed a Climate change awareness survey and a Climate change knowledge survey. The Climate change awareness survey mainly focuses on respondents’ awareness of climate change. The Climate change knowledge survey is primarily about the knowledge learning dimension, with questions such as recognizing mitigation measures and when the Paris Agreement came into force.
ii. MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluation of Climate Change Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined China’s National Curriculum Framework for references to ‘climate change,’ ‘environment,’ ‘sustainability,’ and ‘biodiversity’ themes.
The Compulsory Education Curriculum Plan (2022 version) is an overarching plan for technical curriculum design. None of the aforementioned terms are referenced in the Curriculum.
China’ Education Sector Plan is the 14th Five Year Plan (2021–2025) working plan of the Ministry of Education. The Plan and the 2022 working targets of the Ministry of Education mentioned climate change 3 times.
This section will be updated as the MECCE Project develops.