Peter Koenig: Carbon Neutral Green Finance - China May Take the Lead

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Peter Koenig: Carbon Neutral Green Finance - China May Take the Lead

2021-07-13




Following the idea of President Xi Jinping’s, of promoting a New Era of Eco-civilization, the Eco Forum Global Guiyan, for short EFG, has been held successfully for 10 sessions since its inception in 2009.


As a side line – Guiyang, according to the Nature Index, is one of the top 500 science cities in the world by scientific research outputs.


EFG is the only international high-profile forum in China themed on Eco-civilization at the state-level.


Let me venture saying, the Eco Forum Global Guiyang is, so far, the only international forum of such tenor and action that may and hopefully will expand into a global movement aiming at drastically reducing the world’s carbon footprint – in short, accelerating the objective of making our civilization, our life on earth, carbon neutral.


To be clear, “Green Finance” is often confused, especially in the west. For example, investing in electric cars, when most of the electricity is made from not only unrenewable but also highly toxic CO2-producing hydrocarbon – is not a Green Investment. This is still predominantly the case in Europe and North America.


This does not even take into account the environment-unfriendly mining and often unhealthy work-conditions of exploiting and manufacturing lithium into car batteries.


The world’s chief energy source, hydrocarbons, has hardly changed in importance in the last 30 years or so. It still amounts to about 85% of all energy used in the world. This just indicates that so-called “green investments”, especially in the west, are mostly “fake” green investments, as they have come not even close to a zero-carbon balance.

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Real Green Investments are for example, exploiting renewable and carbon-free sources of power, such as hydropower – wind, solar and tidal energy, with the latter taking advantage of the movements of the sea.


China will also continue being a world example of building “Green Cities”; investing in parks and “green housing” – housing units with plant façades – that absorb urban CO2 emissions from industry and transport.


These are Green Investments, as long as their dependence on hydrocarbon energy is way below the CO2 output of the Green Investment itself.


The traditional, huge, costly, and maintenance-heavy hydropower dams ought to make way for a new generation of hydropower production: namely, small, localized, low-maintenance and even mobile hydropower plants. The latter for use in desertic and monsoon-type flash-flood prone areas. A prime example is Yemen – where floods come when it rains, but where perennial water flows are rare.

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Finally, the real challenge is investing and researching in a new generation of exploiting solar energy…. the most efficient way of using solar energy - by photo synthesis, this is what plants do to convert the energy of the sun. An estimated 95% energy efficiency might potentially be achieved, as compared to the current use of solar panels with a best-case efficiency of less than 30%.


Imagine the energy freedom humanity would gain by exploiting solar energy by photo-synthesis.


In addition, the production of solar panels which have a limited life, requires enormous quantities of energy – energy which is currently mostly produced by hydrocarbons. Plus, solar panels have an average life span of 25 – 30 years, after which they need to be destroyed – or recycled, both are energy-dependent and environmentally challenging.

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President Xi Jinping in his address for the 100-year Anniversary said – “We must unite and lead the Chinese people in working ceaselessly for a better life.” And, further “We must uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

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This signals, creating a new model for human advancement that is leading the way into a Green China – a China where socioeconomic development meets the concept of carbon neutrality.


President Xi further stated - “We must ensure and enhance public wellbeing in the course of development, promote harmony between humanity and nature, and take well-coordinated steps toward making our people prosperous, our nation strong, and our country beautiful.”


China may want to take this a step further. Using the Belt and Road Initiative through joint efforts, and joint ventures in Green Investments, inside, as well as outside Chinese borders, thereby providing the world with new opportunities towards improved and carbon-free standards of living. The focus always being on mutual benefits.


True to President Xi’s words: “We must continue working to promote the building of a human community with a shared future.”


Peter Koenig is a former senior economist of the World Bank and a non-resident senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University.


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