I confess that I am used to thinking of China as a polluter, not much concerned with environmental standards or green technology. I am very pleased indeed to find that I am wrong. This account is couched in the competitive terms of the cold war arms race, but it also tells us plenty about what China is accomplishing:
US energy secretary warns of ‘Sputnik moment’ in green technology race
Steven Chu says US must invest urgently in research and innovation to keep pace with China and other countries
The United States faces a “Sputnik moment” in the global clean energy race and risks falling far behind advances by China and other countries, the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, warned today. …
Meanwhile, China had emerged as the world’s largest producer of wind and solar power, and was breaking ground on 30 new nuclear reactors. It now has the fastest high-speed trains in operation, with running speeds of 220mph.
Gao Guangsheng, a senior Chinese official for climate change policy, told a conference in California this month that China was gearing up for even bigger investment in clean energy technology in its next five-year plan.
Gao went on to tell the conference, which was hosted by California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that China had reached its goal for wind power 10 years ahead of schedule.
“We set up a concrete conception of low carbon development,” he said. But he doubted America could profit from China’s example: “I am afraid China’s experience of green development may not be useful for the United States because of different domestic situations.”
Chu, however, in his speech today said the US could recapture its leadership position with investment in research and incentives for clean energy manufacturing.
“America still has the opportunity to lead in a world that essentially needs a new industrial revolution,” he said. “But time is running out.”
This is very encouraging. It would be even more encouraging of course, if China (much blamed in the fiasco that was the Copenhagen climate talks) could build on these initiatives to make firm commitments on reducing carbon emissions, or even take a leadership role internationally on this issue. In that way it could truly take control of what is looking, more and more, like the Chinese century.