Thousands of students join us to create human water dragons around Beijing – celebrating world water day, and highlighting issues of water scarcity. With more than 20% of the world’s population and only 7% of its freshwater, China knows very well what it means to live in stressed water conditions. Indeed, the available water per person is only 1/4 of the global average!
THIRST is an NGO we started through the Young Global Leaders Community of the World Economic Forum. More information is available at http://www.thirst4water.org. you can also see the blog on the homepage of the WEF at http://www.weforum.org
Happy World Water Day!
Statements made by BHP Chairman Jac Nasser as reported in today’s Business Age question the rationale behind Australia’s conversation on a carbon tax, warning “against belief that Australia’s plans for a carbon tax would be influential – environmentally or diplomatically – on a global scale”.
The point is extremely well put and a missing point in this carbon price debate.
With only 1.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Australia’s reductions in emissions will never be headline grabbing. So why are we talking about imposing a cost on Australian tax payers to reduce emissions here? If, as Mr Nasser points out – it is to increase our soft power internationally, surely it would be better to focus our efforts on creating exponentially more emission reductions by deploying our green technology in other countries around us.
An interesting series of conversations in Sydney today with private and public sector representatives discussing the commercial opportunities available in the cleantech market in China. In particular, talking about practical ways in which we can shift cleantech into China, and at the same time build green wealth for Australia and for Australians. This particularly in terms of building green jobs, green R&D, and green return on investment.
Most interesting was the turnaround in this government entity’s approach – from scratching chins 18 months ago about the perceived risks, to now actively engaging in a conversation about how we can work together to create a platform which encourages Australian greentech to take advantage of the size of the market in China to deploy product at scale, and thereby deliver greater returns to their (Australian!) investors. A very welcome change.
Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited China. She is the first sitting Prime Minister to visit China in three years….even though China is Australia’s largest trade and export partner.
Given the importance of the trip, those of us in Beijing had expected (hoped for?) a well orchestrated performance – a series of visionary speeches, and carefully planned meetings which achieved meaningful results in the further development of Sino-Australian relations.
On all counts, expectations were left in tatters as we witnessed in stark contrast polished articulate presentations by the Chinese – most notable Li Keqiang (one of the top 3 most powerful people in China) – a man of vision, charisma and clear leadership, with that of our own prime minister who gave a speech punctuated by an unfortunate series of remarks about recent visits to Japan and South Korea, comments about Human Rights and requests for China to become more involved in ensuring peace in the region (despite China’s numerous comments that it would not respond to international pressure to do so).
This was a great opportunity to set out a plan forward – like the Chinese, to give a clear response to the challenges that lie before our two nations. Not just on natural resources, but on the green industry (Australia has technology – China needs it), on agriculture (Australia has knowledge – China needs it), and financial investments (China wants to make them – Australia could benefit from them).
Unfortunately, this was an opportunity missed. Comments from the audience give an indication of how our Prime Minister was received – after Li Keqiang spoke for what seemed like 10 minutes, but was actually 23, PM Julia Gillard stood at the podium for a full 32 minutes – what to both Chinese and expats alike “seemed like an hour”.
And the ultimate indication of the status of the Sino-Australian relationship when you take away all the words and the rhetoric – consummate politician Li Keqiang failed to stand up to shake our PM’s hand after her speech. Maybe he is also a little confused about what we are doing in China.
Interesting facts and figures to think about as Australia debates the pros and cons of putting a price on carbon:
- China is greening its economy at a scale and rapidity not seen in our lifetime.
- The greening of China is driven by a desire for financial and energy security and independence, not international pressure to take action on climate change.
- UNDP estimates that 70% of the technology China needs to achieve its “green” targets needs to be imported from overseas.
- And CGI estimates are that this will result in a market being worth up to 1trillion USD per year by 2013.
A wealth of opportunity? It seems so – last year China represented 60% of the world’s IPO market, with Goldwind raising 917million USD, Chaori Solar 360million, and Sinovel (wind) 1.4billion.
We are being distracted by conversations on a carbon price from talking about the real opportunities – the opportunity to build collaborations, and build businesses which support the growth of australian companies, and australian jobs in a growing new sector.
And that means that yet again, in this competitive world, Australia is going to be left behind.
Leigh Ewbank writes in today’s Melbourne based paper ‘The Age’ that the recent advocacy here for a carbon price misses the point. I agree.
See the full article here.
Unfortunately, the debate on carbon here in Australia is completely focussed on the issues around implementation. There seems to be a somewhat misguided belief that if there is a price on carbon, emissions will fall substantially.
Whilst this may be true for emissions within the state – in the manufacturing and transportation sectors where it is possible that pricing carbon may lead to greater efficiencies – the discussions distract from the greater opportunities which exist elsewhere.
As Ewbank points out, countries like China and India have been forging ahead with developments in green industries, and in green technologies. Neither of them has a carbon price, but both have realized that with some education about the benefits of energy efficiency measures, and some carefully structured government stimulus, significant benefits and opportunities can be created.
Now thats what I would call a ‘win win’ situation.
Wen Jiabao speaking at WEF on leveling the playing field for foreign investment into China.
If they can really make this happen, it will have significant implications in the green sector where estimates are that china will have to import up to 60% of the technology it will need to meet it’s 40-45% reduction targets.
For companies already dipping their their toes in the water, the ocean of opportunity may have just become a lot warmer.
It is frustrating to watch Australia still trying to work out how to get to the beach.