Investing in a greener future
The focus on implementing sustainable practices is intensifying and will continue to do so in the future, according to the Where the World’s Moving Global Report. This sentiment particularly holds true for China’s global citizens, with 83% of respondents saying sustainability plays a role in where they choose to live. As Thomas Milburn, Associate Director of Corporate Citizenship, accurately points out in the report, “China is the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy because sustainability challenges are so "real”.
Sustainability in China is a complex problem, encompassing more than solar panels, hybrid cars and green buildings. The factories and power plants that have driven its economic growth have also polluted its air, water and soil. In a bid to respond to years of heavy industrialisation and tackle the environmental challenges that have come as a result, China’s government has started introducing several green initiatives.
In China’s Five-Year Plan for green building development, 50% of new urban buildings are now required to be sustainably certified. It’s an ambitious target, but an important step to addressing some of China’s environmental challenges and one that’s already being rolled out in certain cities.
In the city of Changsha, a 57-storey skyscraper made of prefabricated steel sections rose up in less than 20 days. These ready-made modules, which fit together like Lego, are being regarded as the green building solution to China’s chronic pollution. From offsite mass-production, expected to yield energy savings, to being able to recycle and re-use the steel modules, this initiative demonstrates this necessary shift towards sustainable methods and a more circular economy.
Development of the “World’s First Forest City” has also begun in the city of Liuzhou, in an innovative and ambitious attempt to fight pollution and improve the local biodiversity in the region. The futuristic city aims to host nearly one million plants, 40,000 trees and collectively absorb almost 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen annually. If it succeeds, it will set an example for the future of green city design.
China’s technology giants also play a vital role in sustainable development and are helping accelerate the pace of change. Ant Financial, which is a banking subsidiary of Alibaba and founding partner of the Green Digital Finance Alliance, released an app designed to gamify carbon footprint tracking. Prompting users to cut greenhouse gas emission in real life, more than 200 million of its users signed up to Ant Forest, and at the start of 2017 they had collectively saved 150,000 tonnes of CO2. Using digital technology to advance green finance, the app demonstrates the massive potential of fintech in supporting sustainable development.