About a year ago, I wrote a blog about China and environmental sustainability. It was something Thomas Friedman had written about how he thought America would be able to benefit from the future need to clean up China’s pollution. I think he (and I) failed to understand both the Chinese mindset and the power of a government based on centralised power.

China is starting to wake up to sustainability. And now they can move extremely quicky. Unemcumbered by lobby groups (think of big oil and the US government for an example of what can happen when lobbyists get involved in democratic processes), the Chinese government is able to quickly impose legislation and rewards. And it looks as if they’re starting to do this.

In many cities now, businesses are required to comply with a fifteen point sustainability checklist. If they do not, they are refused access to capital and bank loans, and have been threatened with increased taxation. At a personal level, and example of this happened just last week, when five major cities launched subsidies for those people who buy hybrid or electric cars. The subsidies are significant and will definitely influence consumer behaviour significantly (read about this at Reuters or the NY Times – this article typically sees it as a stealth subsidy to undermine American car manufacturers, rather than a green subsidy, but it still provides interesting data on the project).

The sleeping giant is waking up. This could change everything, and be just the boost that the green economy desperately needs. For those people who have been saying “Until China does something about pollution and energy use, it doesn’t matter what we do in the West”, I have a simple message: “China just did something”. So, what’s your excuse now?

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