Third, China will continue to support the research, development, and deployment of clean energy technologies. China was reported in December to be seriously considering, for example, investments of up to $1.5 trillion in seven strategic industries including renewable energy, clean energy vehicles,and low carbon technologies. In this regard, keep an eye out for two Chinese companies—Yingli Solar and Wanxiang Group—that will play a more proactive role in producing state-of-the-art clean energy technologies to help create more ‘green collar’ jobs domestically and overseas. With robust government support and private sector innovation, China’s pledge to have 15 percent of its energy come from non-fossil fuels by 2020 could be achieved more smoothly and quickly with smart investment. If it can follow through on these ambitious plans—admittedly a big if—there’s little doubt China will be able to join world leaders in the development of wind, solar, and electric vehicle technologies.
Fourth, with the country’s total power capacity expected to climb to more than 1,430 GW by 2015, compared with 874 GW at the beginning of last year, China has been trying to figure out how to bring trillions of kilowatts of power to more than a billion consumers, sometimes over extremely long distances. With this in mind, the government is said to be planning to invest about $300 billion in a smart grid over the next five years that allows potential problems to be detected early. So far, local governments including the Jiangsu Provincial Government and the Shanghai Municipal Government have taken the lead in publishing plans for smart grid development.
Last but not least, China is expected to begin efforts to restore marine ecologies for the first time, focusing not only on supervising chemical oxygen demand, which measures the amount of organic pollutants found in surface water, but also limiting emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus, which causes eutrophication. In addition, constructions such as dams and sea walls will be strictly examined to ensure that they aren’t adversely impacting the environment.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
If China’s policymakers can follow up on this promising list, then it could produce some genuinely spectacular policies that will help the country dramatically increase its chances of sustaining its strong growth, expand its clean technology market, and achieve green job creation.
None of this will be easy, not least because rapidly rising energy demand will mean coal and oil inevitably remain a foundation of China’s economy for years to come. In addition, China’s efforts at developing a green economy so far look like a top-down initiative, meaning much of the public doesn’t really understand what a green economy entails, its importance, or how they can contribute to creating one. As a result, there’s a clear need for proper public outreach to encourage people to become engaged.
Still, the talk around the upcoming five-year plan offers some cause for optimism that with the central government genuinely behind it, and if market-driven mechanisms can be properly utilized, China can launch itself on the path to a greener future.
Yuhan Zhang is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.