China's massive renewable energy investments have made the country lead the world in promoting clean energy and green finance, creating business opportunities, experts said here Tuesday during a panel discussion on China's green economy.
As the world's largest investor in renewable energy, "what China has done is identifying these areas as strategic industries and (China has) poured a tremendous amount of money, mostly for subsidies (into them)," said Barbara Finamore, founder of the China Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group.
With 25 years' experience in environmental law and energy policy in China, Finamore said that China has redefined what's in the country's self-interest to include sustainability and clean energy to the benefit of all.
She said that China has invested an estimated 46 billion U.S. dollars, mostly in subsidies, in research and development for the solar industry over the past decade. In the electric vehicle market, the figure reached around 58 billion dollars.
Another panelist, Damien Ma, pointed out that a great amount of clean energy financing came from the private sector, including private equities, venture capital and private businesses.
"So that area is actually a lot more dynamic," said Ma, a renewable energy expert and associate director of the Chicago-based think tank Paulson Institute. "In the clean energy sector, in particular, we're going to see a lot of more interesting stuff happen in the area including foreign capital."
Like Ma, Finamore said that Chinese companies have been incentivized, as "the amazing sheer entrepreneurial zeal of Chinese solar companies" has been very much alive in China, which "we don't really see in the United States."
In the finance market, China is now the second largest green bond market in the world after just two years of development, as the intention behind such bonds was "to mobilize private finance in that direction," she said.
"Although it's still a tiny percentage of the total (financial market), you see how fast these new products are growing," Finamore said, adding that many around the world are looking carefully at those bond investments to see if they really meet international criteria for green bonds.
Ma attributed the rapid development of China's green bond market to "its willingness to experiment with these (financing) ideas."
"They come out with pilots," he said, adding that China's gigantic economic growth came from piloting special economic zones back in the 1980s. "So they're very familiar with piloting ... they're wiling to go for it. I don't get that similar sense in the United States right now."
The event, titled "Business and the Greening of China," was held by the China Institute, a New York-based nonprofit educational and cultural institution.