Over the past three decades, China’s per capita income has grown by more than 50 times and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. But rapid industrialization, urban development and intensive agriculture have increased the pressure on the environment. The next decades will be vital for China to decouple economic growth from resource depletion.

Even with the Olympic Games of 2008 gone, Beijing is still changing fast: entire new areas appear out of nowhere. In the heart of the city the brand new Central Business District is taking shape, renowned international architects have been called to take part in this construction boom. A hoarding showing the future of Beijing cover a construction site, China.

© Susetta Bozzi / WWF China

WWF’s work in China is to make the fundamental drivers of China’s economic development more environment-friendly. We believe that with better management and efficient use of natural resources, China can play an important role in global sustainability while increasing competitiveness.
Human foot prints in the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi area. Sahara desert. Morocco

© Martin Harvey / WWF

Taking Lighter Steps

China's development is largely shaped by five-year plans, a tool used by the government to achieve its social and economic objectives. The 12th five-year plan states “green development” among the goals for 2011-2015 and includes significant targets to reduce carbon footprint. At the same time, it aims to increase internal consumption, as well as the rate of urbanization.

As high consumption corresponds with increased pressure on natural resources, and wealthier segments of China’s population are overwhelmingly located in cities, we encourage resource-efficient production and sustainable consumption patterns in order to decouple economic growth from resource depletion.

Our goal is to include sustainability principles in central, local and sectoral five-year plans, as well as in China's "Going Global strategy".
Highlights of our work
Over the past six years we have introduced the concept of “ecological footprint” to China by releasing Ecological Footprint Reports in cooperation with CCICED (China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development). Recommendations from the reports were brought before the central government for the formulation of the 12th five-year plan and reached local governments in China.


WWF Goals

  • By 2015, the ecological footprint concept is integrated into China's national 5-year plans.
  • By 2020, China's budgetary expenditure on energy saving and resource efficiency has increased by 150% compared to 2008.

Facts & Figures

  • Home to an estimated 17,300 species of flowering plants and 667 endemic vertebrates, China is one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in the world.
  • There are about 2,395 nature reserves in China, accounting for 15.2% of the country's total land area.
  • Some of the world's more famous and threatened species are found in China, including pandas, tigers, lynx, snow leopards and Tibetan gazelles.
  • With over 1.3 people, China is the most populous nation on Earth.

WWF in numbers

  • 1980: WWF has been the first conservation organization invited to work in China.
  • 2008: The first report on China’s ecological footprint was published.
  • 51.5%: The 12th Five-Year Plan aims to increase China's urbanization rate from 47.5% to 51.5% by 2015.
  • 54%: In 2008 Carbon Footprint accounted for 54% of China total Ecological Footprint.