Taoist elements fuel China's green growth engine
Laurence Brahm
Editor's Note: Laurence Brahm is a senior international research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization. He is also a lawyer, policy adviser, filmmaker and social enterprise pioneer. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
The solution to any problem can also create unexpected consequences requiring new solutions. In the 1980s and 90s, China's biggest challenge was to create employment, to increase productivity and to industrialize as a nation.
However, after all that industrialization and high growth, the outcome was polluted river systems. Over 50 percent of China's water systems were polluted and skies were polluted.
These were the unexpected consequences of high growth and industrialization. In 2013, working to try and address this problem, we began drafting a document that would become known as "Opinions on Ecological Civilization."
That concept looked at how to create integral growth that would convert China's energy resources away from fossil fuels and toward green and renewable systems. I served as the senior advisor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and was embedded within their strategic policy unit, coordinating groups involving both Chinese experts and European experts and looking at how we could actually create a new growth engine built around green.
That involved five traditional Taoist elements – earth, wood, fire, water and gold, with gold being GDP and the earth element being fixed asset infrastructure investment.
Innovation would be the fire element, teaching young people values of environmentalism at the grassroots level.
Green, the wood element, is essential in governance. In other words, there have to be higher standards of environmental governance across the board.
In 2013 when we began this work, more than 80 percent of China's energy resources came from coal, the most pollution-causing fossil fuel. Under this new policy, by 2050, 80 percent of China's energy resources will be green.
And key to this is the water element – finance. China today is the world's largest issuer of green bonds. Green bond debt means urban areas are taking that money and investing it into the conversion of energy systems to smart, green and blue.
However, China still comes under a lot of criticism from the outside. Is it really adopting environmental protection? Well, the ecological civilization policy was adopted by the Central Committee and the State Council in 2015 – just two years after we began the work. That shows how quickly the leadership recognized the problem and was determined to act on it.
Moreover, by 2018, the policy of ecological civilization had already been adopted into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, making it the greenest of any green party anywhere in the world. That's because it's about action and resolving problems, rather than talking about them.
And in this respect, China is taking a leadership role in the world, while the U.S. has stepped out of the climate change talks, is re-engineering its coal industry, pushing fossil fuels and infiltrating oil-rich countries around the world.
China is advancing renewable energy systems in a cost-effective way and, through the Belt and Road Initiative, exporting renewable energy systems across the developing world, giving them an opportunity to have a clean environment and efficient systems that are smart, green and blue.
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