Sustainability in China

Carmen Bakas

Carmen is an international corporate lawyer with over 25 years of legal practice in Amsterdam, London, Singapore, Mumbai and Houston. She holds a double master’s degree of law from Leiden University, The Netherlands, and is qualified as a Dutch lawyer.

With China’s rapid economic development also came significant environmental impacts. By 2005, for example, China was the world’s largest emitter of CO2, due primarily to its coal industry, but also due to a rapidly rising amount of vehicle traffic nationwide. Air and water pollution took a ‘toxic toll’ on the nation’s health and environment.    
In recent years, though, China’s image as an intractable polluter is changing. Following a number of important initiatives, China is beginning to turn things around, and is in fact becoming a world leader in tackling climate change and building a sustainable future.  
Tackling Climate Change 
When it comes to building a sustainable future, the examples are abundant. Last year, China doubled its previous wind power record, adding almost 72 gigawatts of wind power capacity. Its solar installations also beat all expectations, adding almost 48 gigawatts. In January 2020, China released an ambitious new five-year plan which included a graduated ban on the use of non-biodegradable plastic. Public transportation in numerous large cities nationwide, including tech meccas like Shenzhen, are entirely using electric vehicles, and more and more smaller cities are phasing in green public transportation as well.   
In addition to all this, China has become the world’s leader in sustainable investments by investing close to 400 billion dollars in domestic green technologies since 2017, more than twice that of the entire EU.  

China is taking the lead in domestic renewable energy development and investment overseas, not only by becoming for example the biggest producer of solar systems, but also by investing in wind farms in South Africa, and promoting a green Belt and Road. 
Sustainability in 2021 
The new year looks promising with regard to a green China. In his speech at the Davos Agenda on January 25, 2021 President Xi once again explicitly endorsed the Paris agreement by saying “The Earth is our one and only home. We need to scale up efforts to address climate change, deliver on the Paris Agreement, and promote sustainable, green development bears on the future of humanity”.   
More information should be on the horizon regarding China’s short- and long-term climate plans with the upcoming 14th five-year economic plan (March 2021). A higher share of non-fossil fuels, reduction of CO2 emissions, reduction of fine particle pollution in key cities, greater forest coverage, and stronger measures on fossil fuel consumption are expected.  
Together with events such as China’s hosting of the UN Biodiversity Conference (17-30 May 2021) in Kunming, and the Glasgow climate summit in November, this year will be an interesting year with regard to the sustainability plans of China.

At DaWo we care about sustainability. Our lawyers are on top of the developments and changing regulations related to an increasingly green China. We will keep you updated on this topic, but don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you may have.