“When it comes to the environment, we are all Chinese” or how Canada’s cleantech industry can help solve China’s pollution puzzle

“When it comes to the environment, we are all Chinese” or how Canada’s cleantech industry can help solve China’s pollution puzzle

Rapid industrialization in China has been good for the country and the global economy but it is also leaving behind a big problem: pollution.

According to a recent study by independent research group Berkeley Earth, about 38 per cent of the Chinese population breathe air considered “unhealthy” by North American standards.

Chinese authorities recognize the problem. A report released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics in 2015 shows 90 per cent of the 161 cities monitored for air quality failed to meet official standards.

China has been investing heavily in reducing its carbon emissions, especially given forecasts showing an additional 300 million Chinese will become urban residents by 2030, consuming as much as four times more energy and 2.5 times more water per capita than those in rural China.

By 2030, the country is aiming to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 60-65 per cent by from 2005 levels, according to its plan recently submitted to the United Nations.

The transformation to a greener, lower-carbon economy isn’t something China plans to tackle on its own. The global clean technology (cleantech) industry is partnering with Chinese companies and institutions to help invest in, develop and commercialize solutions to help China, and in turn other nations around the world, meet emission-reduction targets.

“When it comes to the environment, we are all Chinese,” said

Nicholas Parker, founding managing partner at Global Acceleration Partners (GAP) Inc., a Toronto-based company that helps take cleantech and sustainability companies into emerging market economies.

“What happens in China will shape the destiny of the world,” added Parker during a GLOBE 2016 session called Accelerating China’s Green Transformation: Catalyzing Business, Partnership & Investment Opportunities.

GAP recently teamed up with The Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in what they are calling “the world’s first cross-border commercialization platform for CO2 solution”. The partners will work to identify and market technologies that will turn carbon pollution into a range of valuable products, such as feedstock.

“Canadian technology can’t simply be exported to China. We need to work jointly … We need global collaboration,” Sun Yuhan, professor and vice president of the Shanghai Advance Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the GLOBE 2016 audience.

Recently, Canada and China signed a joint declaration on clean technology cooperation, which is meant to help address the economic and social challenges of getting products to market.

“It sets the stage for much deeper cooperation,” Parker said.

Wang Yining, deputy president and secretary general at the China Association of Machinery Industry for Environmental Protection, said clean technology is set to become a “pillar industry” in China.

He pointed to the $6.3 trillion (U.S.), or about 41 trillion yuan, that China has earmarked to reduce its emissions.

While there is a lot of opportunity for Canadian cleantech companies in China, their foray into the emerging market needs to measured and strategic, says Ken Su, partner, China Business Network at consulting firm PwC. That includes companies looking for investors in China.

“You want to have Chinese investors, but it’s about building the right relationships,” Su said as part of the GLOBE 2016 China panel.

Su, who recently moved back to Vancouver after years working in China, said Chinese investors have changed significantly over the years. It’s no longer just large state-owned organizations, but a growing number of smaller public and private firms that are part of China’s increasingly liberal economy.

“They’re different in character and all have their own styles,” Su said.

Parker’s advice to Canadian-based cleantech companies looking to export to China is to focus on one market first in the country, and build relationships with stakeholders, including government and investors.

“Come frequently, show commitment,” Parker said. “It’s a way for Chinese to filter who’s real, who is serious … It’s starts with trade missions, but goes beyond that … we need to build bigger bridges of collaboration.”

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