What started as a social and economic abstract has today become a buzzword in development. The concept of “green development” was hitherto seen as a preserve of environmental lobbyists at the behest of global environmental bodies putting multinationals in check.
But green development has now become a mainstream concept not just in economic, but in overall human development as well. Any significant human activity now requires commensurate environment impact assessment to ascertain whether it has an optimal cost-benefit outcome.
Ultimately, development must be holistic with a win-win result for both man and the environment. This is an ambition that China has pursued in tandem with its constant push for economic development.
The publishing of a white paper titled, “China’s Green Development in the New Era,” aims at documenting China’s journey and credentials in this highly sensitive area. The paper has elaborated how the country has stayed firmly committed to green development, proactively participated in global climate governance and carried out wider international cooperation.
Most importantly, China wishes to share its best practices – ideas, actions, and achievements in green development so far – with the rest of the world. But what actually is China showcasing to the world? Green development entails the building of a green, circular, and low-carbon economy.
It is the use of green production methods in order to reduce pollution and carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. Green development entails the economical and intensive use of resources and cleaner production. Given China’s population of 1.4 billion, this is quite a feat. The country has managed to cater to the high demand for goods and services with a relatively low carbon footprint compared to the magnitude of the process.
Indeed, China is working on the perfect energy mix to mitigate emissions, while on the other hand meeting its rising energy demands. In its ambitious plans towards an energy revolution, in September 2020 the country pledged to peak its emissions before 2030 and become carbon
neutral before 2060, aligning itself with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.
Experts observe that to achieve the foregoing twin goals, China requires a paradigm shift that involves scaling-up green industries, while gearing carbon-intensive industries towards net-zero. But this transition must be just and an all-inclusive process, both at the domestic and international levels.
In its white paper, China illustrates how it has steadily improved its industrial structure and energy mix.
A policy brief published by the United Nations titled, “Policy Dialogue on Green Development”, notes that the private sector has been critical in meeting China’s estimated investments for carbon neutrality. The capital requirements are estimated to range between RMB 120 trillion to 170 trillion, well beyond any government’s reach.
To finance its green technology push, the Chinese government plans to encourage enterprises and financial institutions to provide more support to innovative green technologies. The system will also be backed by tax incentives and new “green technology banks”. The government is also supporting research into “deep decarbonisation technologies” in a variety of industrial sectors, including steel, cement, thermal power and agriculture.
Similar to recommendations proposed in the UN policy brief, China has engaged four strategies to boost its green technologies, both at home and abroad. These include pushing both legal and regulatory frameworks and other institutional mechanisms to combat climate change. China is offering incentives to encourage more companies to take up the green technology space both for production and commercial purposes.
Through capacity-building and raising awareness among its citizens, the Chinese government is also involved in encouraging behavior change among its citizens to make them engage in low-carbon transition. Trust and education have also been ingrained in this change process. In addition to being a ready market for the increasing green technologies, the environmental payoffs for the shift are priceless.
Extensive pilot projects have been carried out at local level to explore methods and pathways to
realize the value of eco-environmental products. New models of ecofriendly industry such as urban modern agriculture, leisure agriculture, eco-environmental tourism, forest healthcare, boutique homestays, and pastoral leisure complexes have witnessed rapid development.
China’s green development white paper shows how innovation is helping in mainstreaming this new environmentally sensitive and sustainable culture. Already, the government is leveraging innovations in big data, biotech and artificial intelligence as an effective way of tackling challenges such as pollution, habitat loss and climate change.
China’s green industries continue to grow. The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly, and China leads the world in the manufacture of clean energy generation facilities for wind and photovoltaic power. China produces more than 70 percent of the global total of polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. The quality and efficiency of the energy-saving and environmental protection industries have continued to improve.
China has developed a green technical equipment manufacturing system covering various sectors such as energy and water conservation, environmental protection, and renewable energy. The manufacturing and supply capacity of green technical equipment is increasing exponentially while the cost keeps dropping.