In­no­va­tive plans map new path for de­vel­op­ing na­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By LU­CIE MORANGI lucy­morangi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s ef­forts to bal­ance sus­tain­able, in­no­va­tive eco­nomic growth with en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is draw­ing a road map for other de­vel­op­ing na­tions to fol­low, ac­cord­ing to In­dian con­sul­tant Pa­van Sukhdev.

“By cham­pi­oning the green econ­omy, China has em­barked on an un­en­vi­able and rarely trodden path, the re­sults of which will be the foun­da­tion of fu­ture growth mod­els,” says Sukhdev, the founder of GIST Ad­vi­sory in Mum­bai.

He be­lieves the ef­forts and sup­port from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment show the con­fi­dence it has in de­vis­ing in­no­va­tive strate­gies that pro­mote sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth.

GIST Ad­vi­sory, an off­shoot of the Green In­dian States Trust, an NGO pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, helps govern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions to eval­u­ate their im­pact on hu­mans and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

Sukhdev says China has taken up its re­spon­si­bil­ity as the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy by set­ting the right tone for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, as ev­i­denced in its 13th FiveYear Plan (2016-20), which puts en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion ahead of eco­nomic growth.

The plan comes at a time when there is a strong push to jump-start the global econ­omy. How­ever, he says sev­eral United Na­tions re­ports have used China as an ex­am­ple to show that this growth model can be achieved with the right po­lit­i­cal will.

“China has a big pop­u­la­tion and is seen as the world’s fac­tory, which comes with a whole range of en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­log­i­cal chal­lenges,” says Sukhdev, a good­will am­bas­sador for the UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme. “But we can see that the coun­try is well in­formed about the con­se­quences of the ‘ brown econ­omy’ and is build­ing a re­sources sav­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly so­ci­ety us­ing well-re­searched con­cepts. And it is work­ing.”

The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) in­cludes poli­cies tar­get­ing re­new­able en­ergy, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion. Re­ports also in­di­cate the coun­try has met, or even sur­passed, car­bon emis­sions re­duc­tion goals in the 12th Five-Year Plan, and that the na­tion’s re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try is al­ready boom­ing.

“China has about 60 per­cent of the world’s so­lar heaters. Its so­lar en­ergy in­dus­try is ahead and will prob­a­bly dom­i­nate the global mar­ket,” Sukhdev says. “The green econ­omy is open­ing up op­por­tu­ni­ties for Chi­nese en­trepreneurs.”

Sub­se­quently, he says, China is at the fore­front of pro­mot­ing ca­pac­ity build­ing to sup­port the green econ­omy, an area in which many coun­tries are fail­ing as they fo­cus on fears of job losses and a small global mar­ket, rather than tak­ing note of con­sumer trends.

“The mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion is in­ter­ested in a cleaner and sus­tain­able sys­tem. This means one can­not con­tinue in­vest­ing in the brown econ­omy. China is pre­par­ing for this new era.”

There are chal­lenges, of course. China’s coal in­dus­try, for ex­am­ple, em­ploys more than 5 mil­lion peo­ple, so the tran­si­tion to green en­ergy needs to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient al­ter­na­tive jobs.

Nev­er­the­less, China has a leg up com­pared with other ad­vanced de­vel­op­ing na­tions, such as In­dia, Sukhdev says.

“There are many ex­am­ples, but the one I like best is so­lar tech­nol­ogy. Five years ago, I led a UNEP study (that found) one suc­cess story was so­lar heat­ing in China, with about 40 mil­lion house­holds us­ing so­lar pan­els to heat wa­ter rather than coal.

“The green method is def­i­nitely cheaper and friend­lier to the grow­ing el­derly pop­u­la­tion af­fected by rheuma­toid arthri­tis and in need of vi­able, cheap heat­ing so­lu­tions.”

Such tech­nolo­gies could eas­ily be de­ployed in Africa, he says, adding that the con­ti­nent presents a big mar­ket for this in­dus­try and that Chi­nese com­pa­nies are uniquely po­si­tioned to cat­alyze a green revo­lu­tion there.

Africa’s edge comes from its abil­ity to start from scratch with min­i­mal dis­rup­tions, he says. “Coun­tries can start anew and de­cide on a new di­rec­tion, away from the brown econ­omy.”

De­spite the grow­ing ap­petite re­cently among African lead­ers to in­vest in coal power, Sukhdev says China’s re­new­able tech­nolo­gies, and its own tra­jec­tory to­ward the green econ­omy, could prove in­valu­able.

“The brown econ­omy of­fers vis­i­ble ben­e­fits, but the costs are hid­den. In the green econ­omy, the re­sults and costs are vis­i­ble. This is what lead­ers need to weigh when mak­ing de­ci­sions.”

Sukhdev is a board mem­ber of the Global Re­port­ing Ini­tia­tive, a net­work that helps de­vel­op­ing na­tions to eval­u­ate the risks of for­eign in­vest­ment in the ex­trac­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources. About 25,000 cor­po­ra­tions and na­tions fol­low its guide­lines, in­clud­ing some Chi­nese com­pa­nies.

The guide­lines are ap­pli­ca­ble for African states pre­par­ing for in­dus­trial take­off, he says. “Govern­ments have to rec­og­nize that in­vest­ment is not a gift, but a means to an end, which should not in­flict ex­tra costs on a na­tion with na­tional re­sources.”

While the num­bers of in­ter­na­tional funds and green projects are on the up­swing, Sukhdev says re­gional in­sti­tu­tions such as the African De­vel­op­ment Bank are sur­pass­ing their goals, an in­di­ca­tion of pos­i­tive mo­men­tum to­ward the green econ­omy in Africa.

He says a pos­i­tive eco­nomic and so­cial revo­lu­tion is wait­ing to hap­pen on the con­ti­nent, and part­ner­ships can make it hap­pen faster. As part of the UNEP’s Part­ner­ship For Ac­tion on Green Econ­omy ini­tia­tive, coun­tries can draw lessons and find mod­els that work, he adds.

“It cre­ates learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. No one coun­try has achieved com­plete suc­cess, but ev­ery­one is mov­ing for­ward.”

One mem­ber of the ini­tia­tive is Jiangsu prov­ince in east­ern China. Nes­tled in the Yangtze River Delta, the prov­ince en­joyed an eco­nomic boom that took a heavy toll on its en­vi­ron­ment. It has since in­tro­duced strin­gent mea­sures to re­v­erse the trend and has turned to the UNEP for sup­port.

“I be­lieve the suc­cess that will be recorded (in Jiangsu) will be repli­cated in other prov­inces, which will also join the pro­gram.”

Sukhdev is op­ti­mistic of the ini­tia­tive’s suc­cess as it is based on part­ner­ships and mod­eled on achiev­ing eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. “It’s fi­nally all about the econ­omy,” he adds.

LU­CIE MORANGI / CHINA DAILY

Pa­van Sukhdev says he be­lieves China is on the right path to­ward bal­anc­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion.

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