Professor Zhixiong Huang on the problems and gaps of China's environmental protection system - and how to fix them.

It is often said that the role of the civil society when it comes to developing the necessary environmental awareness around climate change is indisputable. International and national NGOs have played a great role in the climate change field since the beginning of climate change negotiations and even before that. The contribution of Western NGOs in particular is very dense in this regard. However, civil society in developing countries have started to gain further expertise and as a result more influence on the local level when it comes to climate change matters. In this context, one could say that the role of Chinese NGOs has incrementally changed in recent years from a passive actor to a more active participant in shaping the climate change debate home and abroad. In the chapter, “The Development of NGOs in China: A Case Study on their Involvement with Climate Change,” the author Zhixiong Huang explored the sensitive relation between the Chinese government and local NGOs. One one hand, there is a need for the involvement of the civil society on this topic due to the importance of including all the citizens in this debate and to bring environmental awareness. On the other hand, this topic remains an extremely sensitive one for the Chinese government as China is considered currently as one of the largest Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emitters worldwide. As such, the government must still navigate in between several different interests in order to ensure the stability of the society. Yet, due the urgency of the climate change issue, the Chinese government has adopted a new strategy taking into consideration the potential huge role that could be played by Chinese NGOs. For this reason, it is now said that these NGOs have an opportunity to use the existing political climate for furthering their role in the society. Indeed, the current role of these NGOs is not equal to the position of the state as an emerging power in the international sphere. Thus, there is a need to develop the expertise, international connections and most importantly gaining the necessary legitimacy in order to be taken seriously by Beijing. It is important to mention in this regard, that the Chinese NGOs have gained a lot expertise once these organizations started participating in the Conference of the Parties (COPs) in particular since 2007 but mainly at the Copenhagen conference. This reality could be easily observed with the gradual increase of studies presented by these organisations at the COPs as well as with the great number of alliances and connections forged with global climate change NGOs. Even the Chinese government has acknowledged the growing role of these organizations. Unfortunately, these organizations still lack a lot of much needed expertise to really influence all the aspects related to climate change policies at the state level. Because of this lack of expertise, the Chinese NGOs were unable to provide the government with proper solutions and policies that take into consideration the unique and special position of the Chinese state.