Sustainability: the Challenge for 21st Century China

Published on Thursday, 11 September 2014

China is changing direction. The economic giant of the East is making changes to its strategy in order to overcome the problems that came from having based its economic growth primarily on the exploitation of its natural resources and energy. Today, China seems to be ready to take a step forward by investing more in research, development and clean tech, slowing down its energy-intensive industries in order to promote an innovative and high value energy chain.

This talk of a new China came during a workshop entitled China in the 21st Century: Economic Growth, Social Change and Sustainable Development, which was organised by the Enel Foundation and took place in Rome on 8 September.

The event, which was moderated by Enel Foundation director Alessandro Costa, was devoted to the presentation of Sustainable Development and China – Social and Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century (L'Asino d'oro Publishing), a book edited by Nicoletta Ferro from the Bocconi University. The researcher summarised the key points of the work – which was realised with the help of Carlo Ferrara, Enel's environmental management expert who specialised in carbon strategy for Asian markets – analysing the role of sustainability in China alongside issues regarding energy, urban development, food security and the management of natural resources.

Enel Foundation sinologist Irina Lazzerini participated in the discussion on energy issues and presented her own work Plug in China – An Overview of Current Energy Perspectives. The expert discussed the recent changes to the Chinese energy sector, focusing on government policies.

'In terms of legislation, China is changing its approach to economic growth,' she explained. 'The last five-year plan launched by Beijing, promotes a more inclusive and sustainable development model that is based on innovation, the reduction of CO2 emissions and energy efficiency. This means that they have set goals regarding even climate change, with a positive change in this direction expected as early as 2015'.

Lazzerini concluded that today Italy and Europe can look at China in a different light: a country that is opening the door to the green economy and offering a chance to cooperate and the exchange of ideas.