China’s rapid development and growing role in a changing world have drawn great international interest, with many countries, including Sweden, making it a priority to strengthen their relationships with China and to foster bilateral cooperation.
A key partner in this regard has been the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), a non-profit international advisory body established in 1992 under the auspices of the Chinese State Council and composed of high-level Chinese and international policy-makers and experts in environment and development issues. At the Council’s annual meeting, members draft policy recommendations to the Chinese Government, which they present in person to the Premier.
SEI has been involved with CCICED from the start, with Karin Söder, then chairperson of SEI’s board, serving on the Council. Since then, SEI researchers have been involved in a number of CCICED initiatives, and since 2002, when Sweden became a major financial contributor to the Council, SEI has played a central role in facilitating the Swedish Government’s engagement with CCICED.
On Monday in Beijing, SEI Executive Director Johan L. Kuylenstierna signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding with CCICED Vice Secretary General Dingding Tang to strengthen their collaboration.
“SEI has a longstanding relationship with China Council, and we are now formalizing this relationship through an MoU signed under the auspices of Minister Zhou Shengxian and Minister Lena Ek,” says Kuylenstierna. “The agreement outlines a number of strategic areas of collaboration; over the next five years, we will work closely with the Council to turn ideas into action and work together to address key environment and development challenges in China, Asia and globally.”
Guoyi Han, director of SEI’s China Initiative, will be SEI’s focal point in the partnership. “This is a strategic and opportune time for such an agreement,” he says, “as the China Council is increasingly focusing on green and low-carbon development and transformation as well as promoting South-South cooperation. These are issues of truly global significance, where SEI can have an even stronger role to play.”
Focus on key issues in environment and development
The MoU identifies five mutual priority areas for cooperation: green and inclusive development; resource and environment securities and inter-linkages; governance and innovation; sustainable urban transition; and sustainable consumption. Key issues to be addressed include the green economy, “benefits of action” (i.e. non-climate benefits of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as cleaner air), and the “nexus” approach linking environment and resource security, such as water, energy and land.
The cooperation activities will include specific studies – where SEI would join CCICED projects by providing experts and/or case studies, or where both partners would jointly develop policy studies – as well as joint events such as workshops and seminars. In addition, SEI and CCICED will do joint outreach and issue publications together, and collaborate on capacity-building and training.
Work is already under way on several fronts. Karl Hallding, an SEI senior research fellow who led SEI’s former China Cluster, has served on the expert team for a study to develop a methodology for a Chinese Environment and Development Outlook report. Hallding and colleagues have also helped CCICED with smaller activities, and they are now designing a study tour in Sweden for an expert team to carry out a study on media and communications in late June.
“This agreement will make it easier for us to engage in joint research and capacity-building activities to address emerging issues, without long processes of project identification and fundraising,” Hallding says.
Also during this visit to China, SEI is developing a joint initiative on the water-energy-food nexus with the Stockholm International Water Institute and Nanjing Hydraulic Institute; organizing a joint seminar on environment and security issues with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, and participating in a CCICED seminar on green supply chains.