China's role in the global green shift - with John Mathews

Guest: John Mathews, Professor of Strategy, Macquarie Graduate School of Management; author, Global green shift (Anthem, 2017)

Host: Bob Carr, Director, Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI), University of Technology Sydney

China has paid a heavy price for its large-scale industrialisation. While it has driven China’s economic growth, China’s use of fossil fuels has resulted in unhealthy urban pollution. This has encouraged the Chinese government to re-assess its reliance on fossil fuels and focus on renewable energy technologies. How is China improving environmental conditions in big cities? What are the geopolitical reasons behind China’s shift towards greener energy? Will China overtake the United States as the global leader in green technology? Can China’s experience in developing and implementing green technology be applied to other developing countries? What are the opportunities for Australia?

John Mathews joins Bob Carr to discuss China’s role in the global green shift.

In the West, the shift toward green energy has been largely driven by climate change. In China, however, this shift has occurred due to pollution and concerns over energy security.

In recent years China has begun to move from imitation to innovation in its development of green technology, but it still has a way to go. In solar photovoltaics and wind power, for example, China is the largest production power, but not the leader in technology. However, China has every intention of becoming a leader in these fields; by 2020, according to its 13th five year plan, it intends to be on par with Japan and the US in patenting new technologies.

Contrary to expectations, research shows that urbanisation is associated with a diminishing effect of humans on the environment. This is due to the concentration of clean energies and clean transport in small urban centres. China’s new ‘eco-cities’, with renewable transport, power generation and waste collection, are an attempt to create models for the development of future cities by demonstrating the feasibility of implementing green technologies on a large scale.

China’s green shift could be applied to other developing countries, especially in Africa, as they can develop a path for development that ‘bypasses’ reliance on fossil fuels as the traditional source of energy for industrialisation.

Australia is currently a fossil fuel export economy. However, in the long term, movement towards eco technologies will provide more opportunities for the export of Australian technology and expertise to China. Australia shouldn’t try to compete directly with China’s mass production capabilities, but work towards developing technologies that can then be scaled up by China.

Theme music by Sam J Mitchell.

November 30 2017