人物篇 ‖ 访联合国环境署驻华处前国家项目官员蒋南青
Jiang Nanqing, female, currently serves as president and general manager of Beijing Greenwalker Network Technology Co. Ltd., general secretary of Plastic Recycling Branch of China Synthetic Resin Association, and the director of Home Link Public Welfare Foundation. She has been doing post-doctoral research in agroecology for seven years at universities and international research institutions in Japan, Israel and Kenya. She has worked on the UNEP’s climate change program in China, where she has carried out various activities including the Green Economy Initiative, Sustainable Building and Climate Initiative.
Host: Hello, everyone! Welcome to our grand internet interviews broadcast, Popular Eco-people, I am the host, Guo Zhifu. The United Nations, for each of us, is strange but familiar, distant but close. In recent year, the United Nations has made a lot of indelible contributions not only to world peace, but also to environmental protection. Today we have the honor to invite Ms. Jiang Nanqing, former National Program Officer of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in China. What kind of story and experience of environmental protection will she bring to us? Let’s welcome Ms. Jiang!
Jiang Nanqing: Hello, everyone! Hello, Mr. Guo!
Host: Ms. Jiang, it is truly an honor to invite you to our show, Popular Eco-people. Our audience are very happy to hear that you will come to our channel. Today's first question is raised by one of the audience- how did you get into the work of UNEP?
Jiang Nanqing: Until 2007, I was doing scientific research, including doctoral studies and post-doctoral work. In 2007, I returned to Beijing from the International Institute of Entomology in Kenya to work on the EU Biodiversity Project at the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization. A year later, I found that UNEP in China was recruiting officers for the Climate Change Project. That's how I got into the United Nations. My experience is quite unique, because the United Nations requires a master's degree, and generally do not recruit people specialized in research. As a specialized agency of the United Nations in charge of environmental affairs, UNEP is a little more demanding in the environmental profession, and I was fortunate to have this opportunity to work for the United Nations. But now we have more and more colleagues with PhDs.
Host: You mentioned climate change just now. We know that global warming, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, decreasing land area, and the increasing frequency of extreme weather are all closely related to climate change. In the face of climate change, human beings seem to be very tiny. Ms. Jiang, could you talk about climate change with us?
Jiang Nanqing: Okay. Since 2008, climate change has become a global concern. In particular, the United Nations Climate Change conference, held in Copenhagen, Denmark at the end of 2008, was placed great expectations by Parties. In fact, the conference ended in failure with no agreement reached. But this event is a good starting point. Many civil society organizations and the public in China get to know climate change because of the conference.
The issue of climate change is a part of atmosphere problem which can be divided into two aspects. The first is the problem of near-surface layer, which is manifested by air pollution. The second is the problem of far-surface layer, which is often referred to as climate change. Climate change is related to the earth and the whole human being. The previous work of UNEP on the atmospheric level is to protect the ozone layer. You know that our ozone layer has been damaged and there is a hole over the South Pole, which is mainly caused by a large number of harmful substances such as CFCs emitted by human beings. Regarding this, UNEP has made efforts to turn the scientific issues into policy impetus, such as signing of international conventions for Governments to ban refrigerant production. A similar model also has been adopted for climate change through the Kyoto Protocol. However, the restrictive power of the Convention is still far from enough. Every year, UNEP will issue an emission gap report, through which we can see the gap between the actual emissions and the target, so as to call for joint action from all walks of life.
Greenhouse gas emissions mainly come from the industrial and consumer end. Emission reduction also starts at both ends of the spectrum, with the industrial end mainly reducing industrial pollution through cleaner production, energy efficiency and other means. The consumer side is increasingly important, with consumption accounting for over 50% of GDP. Therefore, if we want to reduce the impact of climate change from our own behaviors, we should change our lifestyle, in aspects of food, clothing, housing and transportation. Take transportation as an example, we can reduce the running of vehicles through green travel. And food, itself is generated from natural resources, so the consumption of food will have a certain impact on the natural resources. We should try our best to choose products with a low water footprint or natural footprint. Globally, about 1/3 of the food is wasted every year, which means we should take this issue seriously. In addition, the circular economy that we are promoting now, also starts from improving the utilization rate of resources. The reuse of recycled resources, such as plastics, will become a very important issue in the future. Of course, we can also conduct carbon neutrality through carbon trading. For example, carbon dioxide emissions will increase when we travel, but we can reduce emissions by planting trees; or carbon trading in the carbon market, through the financial way to do some carbon neutral projects.
Host: Mitigating climate change requires each of us to work together and make great efforts. UNEP’s vision of the new urbanism is very cutting-edge- the “resource-efficient city”. How should we understand this conception? And what is the difference between a “resource-efficient city” and an “eco-low-carbon city” ?
Jiang Nanqing: As an agency in the field of environment and resources, UNEP has always attached great importance to the impact of our economic activities on the environment and on the consumption of resources. UNEP works to promote the decoupling of economic development from resource consumption, that is, not to develop the economy at the expense of resource consumption and environmental damage. The 11th of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals-Sustainable Communities and Cities, and the 12th- Sustainable Production and Consumption, are all relevant to cities. First of all, cities need external resources to survive. On the one hand, we need to reduce the energy consumption of infrastructure, and get into the recycle system through energy interconnection. On the other hand, we should adopt low-carbon buildings with new technologies. Secondly, in the urban space, we need to have some ecological scenic areas and green spaces, such as parks, green space and so on, giving our city the functions of resisting the extreme climate and regulating the ecosystem. Finally, we need to change our lifestyles in cities, because the choices we make on the consumption end will affect the production end. Hereby the demand for products and services should be greener and more sustainable.
The difference between resource-efficient cities and low-carbon cities is that resource efficient cities focus not only on low carbon and energy, but also on resources and green ecosystems, which is a more comprehensive concept.
Host：On the 10th anniversary of the Plastic Restriction Order (2018), you have decided to leave UNEP and enter the plastics recycling industry to strive to establish a system of plastics recycling. I have always thought of plastic as one of the greatest inventions in the 20th century, because it is lightweight and can replace paper bags, cotton and silk products, and even invented for the sake of environmental protection. But now plastic is everywhere, even at the bottom of the ocean, the North and South Poles. The eighth continent floating in the Pacific Ocean is made of plastic. What do you think of the problem that the function of plastic has changed from environmental protection to pollution?
Jiang Nanqing: The plastic problem is also a typical environmental problem. Plastic have been invented to make people's life more convenient. For example, many of clothes are made of dacron, which is plastic polyester; the agricultural film technology, has greatly increased the output; the plastic parts on cars provide a good cushion; and also electronics... So overall, plastic makes our life better, but the problem is that plastic is so closely related to people's life that it is difficult to form such a good management system. As a result, Alan MacArthur Foundation in the UK published the New Plastic Economics in 2016, which focuses to manage these substances through the idea of a circular economy, considering the entire life cycle of plastics from production, consumption, disposal to recycling, thus avoiding resource waste in the environment.
Host: I think the most terrible thing is not that plastics are difficult to degrade and destroy biodiversity to a great extent, but the presence of plastic particles. In 2019, a new study by USGS showed that about 90 percent of rainwater collected at different locations in Colorado contains tiny plastic fragments, beads, and plastic fibers. Even plastic particles exist in baby’s body. Can you talk to us about this?
Jiang Nanqing: It is a new problem. Because the plastic itself is made from resin, whose particles are very small. If the plastic is not completely biodegradable, it will eventually become microplastic particles. There are two kinds of microplastic particle leakage. One is the unconscious leakage that caused by daily wastage and frictions. The other is the conscious leakage, specifically, the cosmetics, sunscream and facial scrubs have added certain particles. Nowadays, many areas such as the European Union and the United States have banned the addition of such particles to cosmetics. Water from laundered clothes may contain plastic particles that wash into the ocean with the sewer, causing harm to the health of human beings or creatures through biological ingestion.
Host: So, it is better to have a life-cycle supply chain for plastic recycling. Ms. Jiang, you have done a lot of work in this field, can you share any with us?
Jiang Nanqing: In terms of the whole life cycle, the plastic recycling industry mainly hopes that all waste materials can be recycled. Now we have the way of physical recovery. For example, the textile mills can take the recycled bottles and turn them into a new fabric. At the same time, we have the way of chemical recovery, since plastics are polymers, we can break the hydrocarbon bonds and repolymerize them. No matter what kind of plastic material, we can repolymerize it into a new polymer, and then use it in a new production, but at present, the cost of this method is relatively high.
Host: what other environmental protection stories or feelings would you like to share with us?
Jiang Nanqing: The most important thing for resource recovery is to classify the waste, such as kitchen waste and recyclable waste, or it will be difficult to reuse. In the past two years, various cities in China have started to implement waste classification, and citizens' awareness of waste classification has been significantly improved. In addition, manufacturers should consider whether a design can be recycled from the perspective of product design. Meanwhile, consumers should also establish environmental awareness of waste classification.
Host: The long-cherished goal of Popular Eco-people is to share the stories or experiences of environmentalists worldwide with more people, so as to promote the ecological civilization. What's your comment on this?
Jiang Nanqing: I think this work is a fascinating thing. Ecological environment protection is integrated into our daily life, but it is not easy to really understand the connotation of ecological environment protection. At present, there are not many people who can totally explain and apply the concept of ecological environment protection. Popular Eco-People invites experts to share their environmental protection stories, which is equivalent to having a resource base or an expert pool. This program makes more audience to know about these experts and receive professional consulting services. These are all wonderful practices.
Host: Let's thank Ms. Jiang for her wonderful sharing with warm applause again. I am the host of the Popular Eco-people, Guo Zhifu. That’s all for today, see you next time.