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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Asia Leads On Greening Economy

It might be surprising to learn that China, widely regarded as one of the world’s worst polluters with its 1.3 billion population, overcrowded and smog-choked cities, rapidly industrialising economy and no-brakes attitude to growth in energy consumption and automobile ownership, is way ahead of Europe when it comes to spending on greening the economy.

The $80 billion of US spending and around €90 billion in the EU, earmarked for green stimulus programmes which aim to encourage sustainable industries and reduce carbon emissions, pale in comparison with the €150 billion China has invested in green initiatives.  As a proportion of overall stimulus spending, the EU’s green initiatives are again unimpressive compared with several Asian countries: the latest figures suggest that the percentage of EU spending directed towards green measures is less than 10%, compared with 80% in South Korea, 40% in Australia, 34% in China and 15% in Japan.  Instead of being satisfied with comparing our green spending with Obama, should Europe be looking eastwards and trying to measure up to Asian levels of commitment to creating the green jobs of the future?

Green technologies, including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and electric cars, are seen as a major source of future innovation and job growth, but Karl Falkenberg, Director-General of Environment in the European Commission, stated in a EurActiv article of 2 November that there is still a lot of potential for many EU Member States to do much more in order to maintain competitiveness with Asian rivals.  One problem is the more fragmented nature of green research and innovation initiatives in the EU as compared with giant state-backed monopolies in countries such as China.  It looks like many Asian governments have adjusted their spending priorities very quickly to the demands of the economies of the future, and Europe would do well to take notice.

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