Sustainability could become China’s competitive advantage, the Paulson Institute’s Leigh Wedell posited during a panel session at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Greater China Business Conference today in Chicago. The conference, attended by 550 scholars, professors, and business leaders, sought to work through China’s future growth model and evolving approach to addressing its environmental crisis.
On the panel, Wedell—the Institute’s Chief Sustainability Officer—joined Emerson Climate Technologies Group VP Bill Bosway and Cummins General Manager Sharad Shekhar to discuss how China can generate sustainable growth as it seeks to reform its economy. The panelists were in consensus that China is making all the right policy moves, particularly regarding the environment. By experimenting with carbon taxes, spending on renewables, reducing reliance on coal, improving building energy efficiencies, and investing in technological solutions for clean energy, China is demonstrating its seriousness about making the environment a key priority.
China’s rapid development presents the opportunity for Beijing to turn sustainability into the country’s competitive advantage, Wedell noted in her remarks. With its ability to leapfrog technologies and adapt infrastructure to integrate renewable energy technology, coupled with a growing consumer populace, China has all the ingredients to generate sustainable growth.
Government leaders are eager to learn and implement international best practices, illustrated by the success of the Paulson Institute’s Mayors Training Program, which hosts a Chinese delegation of urban leaders for two weeks of training in the U.S. Wedell is preparing to run the program for the third time in July.
Ongoing urbanization trends mean that China’s leaders will have to move quickly—energy demand is increasing and more coal is not an option. But by setting bold targets on emissions and scaling up investment in clean energy, China has shown it is serious about achieving its targets. The panelists only diverged on one question: When?