Economy

Now is Your Chance to "Green" China

Choked by pollution, China looks to Canadian companies for environmental technologies, and that spells opportunities

Written by Valérie Borde

In March 2014, Premier Li Keqiang, told members of the National People’s Congress that China had entered a war against pollution. The following month, the country for reformed the Law on Environmental Protection the first time since 1989. And in September 2013, the State Council, the highest authority of the Chinese government announced an action plan for the prevention and control of pollution, which includes 10 measures to reduce air pollution by 2017 and a much tighter monitoring of businesses and local authorities. This adds up to business opportunities for Canadian companies with expertise in environmental sciences. Among those opportunities are:

  • Controlling industrial air emissions: This is the top priority for the authorities in the short term. Processing equipment and measurement of emissions of nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide are in high demand, but local competition is strong.
  • Water treatment: In a country where the tap water is not potable anywhere, the current Five-Year  Plan, an economic master document that directs all Chinese business priorities, envisages the construction of no fewer than 3,000 water-treatment plants and $319 billion in investment to treat water and sewage. Multinationals involved in water treatment, such as France’s Vivendi, already occupy land in Chinese megacities. But in a country where more than 650 cities have populations of more 100,000 inhabitants, the opportunities for other firms is huge.
  • Treatment of contaminated soils: Some 100,000 industrial plants were closed between 2001 and 2009, leaving behind a grievously toxic legacy. In 2014, the government announced that more than 10% of agricultural land was severely contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals. It launched an ambitious action plan for soil remediation. Few Chinese companies have the expertise, but Canadian ones do.
  • Distributed energy: The Chinese government strongly encourages energy generation for use on site, for example any factory production. Although Chinese companies dominate the market for solar panels, there is room for other forms of distributed energy such biomass and small hydro-electric generation, as well as for smart-grid technologies

Read: China Offers Opportunities and Challenges for Canadian Companies

  • Green buildings: For the Chinese government, urbanization is synonymous with economic development and modernization. It predicts that by 2020 more than 100 million people will move to cities from the countryside. Residential, commercial and institutional buildings are often poorly insulated. They consume a fifth of the country’s energy. The result is new interest in green building, with the introduction of more stringent requirements for all new buildings energy efficient standards. Various large cities, like Shanghai, have also begun plans to upgrade existing buildings. But investors remain cautious because the government funding for green building remains unclear.
  • Green transportation: The number of cars in China increased from 5.3 million to 136 million between 1990 and 2013, resulting in congestion and increasing pollution. Beijing wants five million electric cars on the road by 2020 and there is strong demand for greener transit, both in the development of new vehicles and in  traffic management systems.
  • Solid waste management: China is still very far behind Western countries in the field of processing and recycling of solid waste—and its production of garbage will more than triple by 2030, reaching twice that of the United States. Currently, less than 80% of domestic waste is buried, incinerated or otherwise treated. It is estimated that in the vicinity of Beijing alone, there are over 1,000 major illegal dumpsites.

This story originally appeared in L’actualité.

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