Research hub helps China's sustainable development

Updated: 2015-04-28 21:59

By Cecily Liu(China Daily)

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A research hub has been launched to gather global academics' expertise to assist China with sustainable development and share lessons learned with countries globally.

The China Sustainability Hub is led by the STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) from the UK and Beijing Normal University School of Social Development and Public Policy.

It will conduct research focusing on three areas: agricultural transformation, technology collaboration for international development and low carbon innovation and sustainable cities.

The hub was launched at an international conference on Pathways to Sustainability in a Changing China earlier this month and forms one of six hubs in the new Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium.

Zhang Qiang, associate dean of the School of Social Policy and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University, said the hub provides a multidisciplinary platform to unite academic perspectives, which in turn address sustainability issues.

"We connect all sorts of perspectives through the hub, including low carbon technology, sustainability policy and poverty reduction. Academics in these areas tend to conduct separate research and focus on their own discipline, but we realize there are benefits from working together," Zhang said.

There will be emphasis on information and communications technology research that address low carbon solutions, and policy research looking at how the government can put in place the right incentives on sustainability.

"We would look at where the subsidy should go to reduce poverty in society, or how to engage with non-government organizations to deliver social services. We then implement pilot programs to see if they can be implemented on a wider scale," he said.

Many of the lessons on achieving sustainability in China can be shared with other emerging countries globally, Zhang said. "For example, China's large scale poverty reduction and fast urbanization process can be inspiring to many other countries, and sharing these experiences is also a goal of our work," he said.

Adrian Ely, deputy director and head of impact and engagement at STEPS Centre, said the collaboration with China has great significance due to the scale of challenges relating to China's sustainability and climate change issues.

"There is a domestic significance, to improve the sustainability of patterns of development in China. China is working more and more with other countries on this. But there is also a global significance, because China's sustainability issues are impacting other parts of the world," said Ely, who is also a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex.

He said the China Sustainability Hub builds on existing collaborations that have been ongoing for decades between the institutions that have hosted the STEPS Centre since it launched in 2006 (Social Policy Research Unit and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex) and Chinese partners.

He said that in working with Chinese partners, Western academics can bring methods and theory already tested in other parts of the world, but at the same time need to be sensitive to the Chinese context.

"A balance needs to be struck. Western academics need to realize that within China's socio-political context some problems can be addressed with methods that they are familiar with, and in other cases these methods may not always be appropriate," Ely said.

He said that more specific areas of research to be addressed through the hub include low-carbon energy, rapid urbanization, technology for energy, agriculture or mobility and the regulation of seeds and antibiotics.