China and India – Laggards or Leaders?

Even among green enthusiasts there seems to be a feeling that our best efforts could be cancelled out by the growing energy demands of the developing world – particularly the massive economies of China and India which between them comprise 40 percent of the world’s people. This fear may prove unjustified if current trends continue and recent developments are carried to fruition. For example:

  • China’s solar industry already provides water heating for 35 million buildings.
  • India’s pioneering use of rainwater harvesting brings clean water to tens of thousands of homes and the country already has very active solar and wind industries.
  • China has contracted to convert over 10,00 diesel buses in 5 cities to run on hydrogen/natural gas.
  • The Chinese state energy company has pledged to spend at least $2.5bn on renewable energy projects over the next five years.
  • Just this month, China has passed a law that sets tariffs in favor of non-fossil energy such as wind, water and solar power and has set a goal of 15% renewables by 2020 – a massive target given the size of the economy!

Given China’s continued dependence on coal, some might say this is not sufficient but represents a huge commitment by economies struggling to develop and without repeating all the mistakes of the industrialized world. The WorldWatch Institute’s State of the World 20006 has a Special focus on India and China that reports on some of the strategies that China and India are starting to implement. It might just be that the Chinese and Indian pioneers are providing models for a new and sustainable economy and that we in the West are about to be leapfrogged!

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