China invests big in ecological progress

A viaduct built over a wetland in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province to make way for wildlife has been described as a “green bridge” by local residents.

Built with an investment of 430 million yuan (68.8 million U.S. dollars), the 5-km overpass opened to traffic in late 2010 and spans the largest inner city wetland in China — the Longfeng Wetland Nature Reserve, located near the city of Daqing, known as China’s first oil production base.

In the 1960s, roads were built directly on the wetland so people could reach the oil fields faster, which, however, threatened the local ecosystem.

Since the bridge has been constructed, birds have returned and plants are growing again. A total of 76 species of birds are currently living within the wetland area, including five species under first-level national protection.

Authorities highlighted the need to promote ecological progress and gave it a more prominent position by incorporating it into the country’s overall development plan last month when the governing Communist Party of China (CPC) convened a national congress.

The country has pledged to support the development of energy-efficient and low-carbon industries, new energy sources and renewable energy sources, which requires huge investment.

Jin Lei, a partner at international accounting firm KPMG, said the Chinese market has great investment potential for green industries, as the country has included such industries in its Development Plan for National Strategic Emerging Industries during the 12th Five-year Plan period (2011-2015).

With a total investment of 2.1 billion yuan, Longhua New Energy Vehicle Industrial Park, the largest new energy vehicle project in Heilongjiang Province, was put into operation in July 2012 and has received a slew of orders from foreign companies so far.

According to a report issued by the Deutsche Bank Group in August, the annual production value output of China’s electric vehicle industry could reach 159 billion yuan by 2020.

China has also vowed to launch major ecological restoration projects and prevent desertification, especially for the northwestern regions with fragile environments.

The government of Minqin County in northwest China’s Gansu Province is battling desertification in the catchment of the Shiyang River, as overdevelopment has accelerated desert encroachment, leaving the basin among the country’s worst ecologically-deteriorated regions.

In 2007, China put 4.79 billion yuan toward environmental conservation around the Shiyang River basin. Conservation efforts there have included capping water use and developing water-saving agricultural techniques.

“People are not only looking to increase their incomes, but have also demanded an improved environment and living standards,” said Sun Wancang, a professor at Gansu Agricultural University.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang said last week China will invest 3.4 trillion yuan in environmental protection during the 12th Five-year Plan period.

Li vowed to expand domestic markets by encouraging the application of solar power generation technology and connecting more on-site solar power generation sites to the national power grid.

China has connected less than 10 percent of its annual solar cell output, indicating huge market potential, Li said, citing the solar sector as an example of how to tap local markets and explore ecological progress.

However, Chen Ying, secretary-general of the Research Center for Sustainable Development under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the promotion of ecological progress should come not only from the government, but also from enterprises and non-governmental organizations.

In east China’s Jiangsu Province, the provincial government has allocated 2 billion yuan annually to control pollution near Taihu Lake over the past five years.

In addition to the government’s investment, a total of 75 billion yuan has been raised by the public to support more than 3,000 related projects.

Private enterprises in Jiangsu, represented by Suntech Power, the world’s largest producer of solar panels, and Trina Solar, a leading solar module company, have contributed to China’s solar capacity in recent years.

According to a report released by the National Energy Association on Sept. 12, China will expand its installed solar power generation capacity to 21 gigawatts (GW) by 2015, which will require an investment of about 250 billion yuan.

In 2011, China’s growth in renewable energy was 2.5 times that of Brazil and India combined. The country’s asset financed investment of 44 billion U.S. dollars in the sector represented 30 percent of global renewable investment, compared to Brazil’s 5 percent and India’s 7 percent, according to another report published by the Deutsche Bank Group in July.

The report forecast that China is likely to install 340 GW of renewable power in order to meet national targets through 2020. The investment in incremental wind and solar power, plus grid investment, could total 527 billion U.S. dollars, it said.

Xinhua