The Chinese government adopted a new National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, committing to more ambitious action on building resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The Challenge

China's people, resources and economy are highly vulnerable to climate change. For example, extreme rainfall in the Henan province in 2021 caused 300 deaths, wiped out more than 50,000 houses and thousands of hectares of crops, and caused direct economic losses of around RMB 53.2 billion ($8 billion). And impacts are only poised to intensify as temperatures rise.

China urgently needs investment in climate-resilient infrastructure to protect at-risk communities, but so far, its policies and finance for climate adaptation are far less than what’s needed. The country will need an additional RMB 500 billion ($77 billion) over the next five years to sufficiently address adaptation.

WRI’s Role

WRI played a key role in bringing adaptation to the forefront of China’s climate agenda. Supported by the Global Commission on Adaptation and WRI’s strategic partners, WRI China provided evidence-based research to accelerate adaptation action and steer investment towards climate-resilient infrastructure.

WRI’s report, Accelerating Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Investment in China, evaluated future climate risks in three key areas: agricultural drought, urban waterlogging and coastal storm surge. It offered a cost-benefit analysis of climate-resilient infrastructure projects to address these risks and made the economic case for scaling up investment. And it explored innovative financing models, such as public-private partnerships, to facilitate increased adaptation finance.

In producing the report, WRI worked closely with China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which led development of the country’s National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035. This partnership allowed WRI to support planning and review processes for the strategy, providing evidence-based approaches and guidance which were reflected in the final policy.

The Outcome

In June 2022, 17 departments of the Chinese government jointly released the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035, which sets long-term principles and action plans for climate adaptation.

Compared to China’s National Adaptation Strategy 2020, the new plan sets clearer priorities for accelerating nationwide adaptation actions, including research, capacity-building and investment. In 2023, each province in China will produce provincial climate adaptation action plans in accordance with the national policy. Provincial plans will promote on-the-ground resiliency initiatives with an emphasis on safeguarding vulnerable regions and populations with limited capacity to adapt.

This process also heightened awareness of the need for climate adaptation in China. Subnational governments, financial institutions, major companies, media and international organizations (such as the Asian Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Europe) have reached out to WRI for policy suggestions and experience sharing, signaling an important dialogue shift in both the public and private sectors.

China’s new strategy is an essential step toward advancing adaptation at scale. It will be critical to protecting the country’s vulnerable communities and can help increase adaptation investment globally.