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Eco-opportunity knocks in China

With China’s huge population, massive economic growth and burgeoning infrastructure, there’s no doubt that the Asian powerhouse poses a stern test for global sustainability. But it also offers big opportunities, according to WWF-UK’s green game-changers report.

In China, electric vehicle infrastructure and consumer take-up, off-grid renewable energy and sustainable building are seen as the areas where Western countries can learn most from. Car-sharing schemes, ‘up-cycling’ of materials and air pollution reduction technologies are suggested as significant areas where the movement of knowledge and goods is shifting towards Asia.

The UK government is certainly keen to sign up to take China’s hand in a formal way, beyond the broad economic ties that the Prime Minister was looking to establish last December. Low-carbon industry is a significant area of interest. A link-up has been made to work with Guangdong Province on business carbon emissions, product standards and Chinese support in UK carbon capture and storage ventures.

It’s not just the big entities that are making friends with the Chinese. A delegation of small and medium-sized innovators from the UK visited China last autumn with the Technology Strategy Board, hoping to make some useful connections. The group included Arcola Energy, a spin-off from London’s Arcola Theatre, that offers fuel cell technology, and a firm that produces corrosion-resistant materials to aid vehicle fuel consumption. It is often the smaller entities that have the flexibility to produce the brightest sparks of inspiration, so this is good news.

In terms of tackling climate change and energy security, it seems that China may well be the great test-bed of whether you can be part of both the problem and the solution. It’s highly likely that Britain will play a number of support roles in future developments.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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