Future environmental governance in China


Tackling desertification and land degradation is vital to safeguard food security, mitigate poverty, and reduce adverse impacts on climate change and biodiversity. Today, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the key international agreement that addresses the environmental challenge and its parties with different biophysical and socioeconomic situations are expected to adopt corresponding but contextually specific policies and actions to address the issue.Nevertheless, the UNCCD’s participatory, decentralised governance approach that stresses people’s participation and devolution of authority has been lauded as it can tap into local knowledge and skills, develop management strategies tailored to local understandings, and provide more appropriate and efficient resource use, supporting transparency, accountability, and legitimacy as to what ought to be in a democratic society. However, experiences from non-democratic societies, such as China, have been largely overlooked and inadequately addressed both in the land degradation literature and by international policy. We need to understand how the dominance of powerful centralised actors affects environmental management, the advantages and disadvantages of different governance approaches, and the constant adjustments and adaptations among them, acknowledging diversity in dealing with desertification and land degradation.

The project aims to investigate the implementation process of National Environmental Programmes (NEPs) that were initiated 20 years ago to deal with desertification and land degradation in north western China. Through the implementation of NEPs, China has reported substantial progress in tackling desertification, but its approaches have been controversial, and the sustainability of its achievements has been questioned. While China has been active in UNCCD processes, its approach to addressing desertification has differed from those of other countries. China can thus offer important insights into the international campaign, while acknowledging that China can also learn from the efforts of others.

Key Aims & Objectives

To understand how knowledge exchange is affected in the implementation of environmental policies. To develop pragmatic environmental governance approach (es) in China as well as other developing countries to achieve truly sustainable societies. Objectives are:

  1. Analyze the implementation characteristics of the National Environmental Programmes and the impacts on local stakeholders
  2. Examine the influences of knowledge exchange among local stakeholders
  3. Identify the pathways to improve knowledge exchange among local stakeholders
  4. Develop key elements for future environmental management that delivers sustainable outcomes in China


Prof Lindsay Stringer, Dept of Environment & Geography/YESI


Prof Lindsay Stringer, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York

Prof Jouni Paavola, Department of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds

Self Funded


Kong, Z.-H.; Stringer, L.; Paavola, J.; Lu, Q. Situating China in the Global Effort to Combat Desertification. Land 2021, 10, 702.