I recently wrote an article for the Shanghai Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s bimonthly eMag newsletter, titled “Cleantech Powers the New Economy: The Global Financial Crisis Provides an Opportunity to Invest in Green Technology.”
The newsletter is available on their website, but I wanted to quote a few passages here for those who are too busy to download the full version. Regular readers know that this topic, environmental investment, is very dear to me. Here is an abridged version:
The financial bubble of greed that began in the 80s with big mergers and buy-outs has come full circle as the giants of Wall Street drown in a sea of mortgage debts and bad decisions, bought out or forced to merge by the very government that let them run loose in the first place. Is there yet a reason to be optimistic?
On the surface, it would seem not. Major financial institutions such as Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs have failed or been merged into much larger entities, shedding tens of thousands of jobs in the progress. Others such as AIG and Citibank have received huge government investments and guarantees. Collapsing home values in the U.S. and UK are leading their respective economies into the severest downturn since the Great Depression, and the ripple effects are being felt around the world.
Below the surface, a ray of hope lights the darkness: An industry that can possibly rescue the global economy. Thomas Freidman, in his new bestselling novel Hot, Flat, and Crowded, makes a strong case for environmental investment to lead the way out of the intertwined energy and economic crises. To paraphrase his book’s main point, the US, and the world, can no longer afford to rely on cheap oil and must instead invest in cleantech, a collection of technologies including solar, water, biofuel and wind power, and sustainable products designed for the three R’s: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. The economy of the future is the environmental economy. The new mantra? Green is good.
China, above all others, stands to benefit from this trend. World leaders, from Chinese President Hu Jintao to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recognize the fundamental truth: Pollution, population, and resource use are the key issues of our time and must not take a back seat, even during this period of economic distress. President Hu made strong statements indicating China’s commitment to environmental investment at the 17th National People’s Congress in October. China’s 11th Five Year Plan and the “Save Energy, Reduce Waste” campaign are key initiatives.
At the G20 Financial Summit last November Secretary-General Ban said, “The emerging ‘green economy’ should be key to the stimulus plan. Eco-friendly renewable energy will drive the world’s next great industrial transformation. It has the potential to create millions of jobs and spur growth. Let us, therefore, invest in fighting climate change.”
So this is, in fact, China’s battle to lose. With one of the world’s largest markets and some of the world’s biggest environmental problems, China has a vested interest in making environmental technology successful.