Research News

China's Environmental Transformation: A Decade of Progress and Challenges

Jan 24, 2024

In the wake of rapid economic development in China over the past decades, a new study published in the International Journal of Digital Earth utilized big data to examine the spatiotemporal dynamics of 20 environmental-related indicators around six Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from 2010 to 2020. Despite the challenges posed by a lack of data, especially with spatiotemporal information, the research sheds light on the country's environmental evolution within the global SDG framework. 

The study was conducted by a group of scientists from the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). 

Their findings reveal that China has made remarkable progress in most of the evaluated indicators, showcasing substantial improvements across 63.5% of the country’s land area. Nevertheless, a noteworthy exception is in indicator 13.2.2, related to CO2 emissions, where progress has been constrained.

By 2020, four indicators including indicator 11.2.1 (public transport access), 11.5.2 (economic loss from natural disasters), 15.3.1 (land degradation), and 15.4.2 (Mountain Green Cover Index had already achieved their 2030 targets, underscoring China's commitment to environmental sustainability. The study predicts that 10 out of the 20 indicators are on track to meet their targets by 2030, although two indicators are anticipated to lag behind.

This quantitative assessment provides valuable insights into China's progress towards environmental SDG indicators, offering policymakers timelines and recommendations for continued advancements in sustainable development. 

The study serves as a comprehensive overview of China's environmental journey, highlighting achievements and emphasizing the need for targeted strategies to address persisting challenges. 

Spatial differences and score maps of China from 2010-2020. (Image by AIR)