Reading the China Daily newspaper in the cab on the way to the airport after 10 days working in the country, I was struck with the idea that China has a real opportunity to lead the world on climate change.
One article noted that “China’s clean energy market is open to all foreign players, and many foreign companies have built a presence in the market.” That seems like a fairly straight-forward news item, but think about it: Could such a sentence be written about the U.S., where we increasingly seem to be weaving an isolationist cocoon from the glories that could accompany this moment in time of endless globalization opportunities?
General Electric’s turbines in China, for example, are generating major amounts of wind power there. Meanwhile, “China has only exported three wind turbines to the U.S.”
While China certainly has the problems that are accompanying major industrialization and a massive reliance on burning dirty coal, I gained a sense of real hope while visiting China that there is still time for the world’s powers to get a grip on global warming.
In the words of The Nature Conservancy’s China Program Director, Shuang Zhang: “China is moving incredibly fast on taking actions to fight climate change with some of the largest clean energy investments and reforestation programs in the world. And while there is potential for China to become a leader in these fields, there is still much room for improvement in both, especially with reforestation efforts that can deliver more benefits to communities and wildlife. But judging by the speed and impressive goals that China is developing in both these fields, the potential is very real.”
In the many conversations I had with Chinese citizens and environment experts while working in Beijing and Inner Mongolia (where one of our tree-focused climate projects is kick-starting), there was confidence that China is learning from the lesson of previous industrializing countries. Also, China seems to still comprehend the importance of fundamentals.
A few other headlines from China Daily: “Rationality urged for students.” “Reform leading to good governance.” There was also an editorial urging Beijing leaders to improve public transportation in a city that welcomes more than 500,000 vehicles from outside the city limits every day.
These articles, I fear, would not make it to the top of the U.S. newspapers, where news needs to be about something original, post-post-modern, or Lindsey Lohan.
This Chinese fundamentalism offers to be the saving grace for us all. Or at least for the Chinese, if the U.S. and our politicians don’t begin to think a little more global.
Post and photo by: Paul Mackie, associate director of strategic communication for climate change, The Nature Conservancy
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