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4 New Plays in China's Sustainable Development Playbook


Meeting with Faculty from the School of Management, Guangzhou University

I had the opportunity recently to meet with some colleagues from China's Guangzhou University. They were visiting U.S. business schools to explore new models and programs in research and education for their students and faculty. Like the U.S. and everyone else, China's growth is bumping up against the limits of both human health and planetary boundaries. It was a great discussion about management, business education and the future of economic growth.

It got me thinking about China and thus this list...

1. China Rejects Trash (The Economist)

China has imported the world's recycling for decades and has announced, "No more! Deal with your own trash."

Image credit: South China Morning Post

More to the point, they told the WTO that 24 different waste streams will no longer be accepted. In 2016, China spent over $18 billion for foreign municipal solid waste. This is having a major disruptive effect on recycling schemes in the United States.

2. China's Great Green Wall

Since 1978, China has planted at least 66 billion trees across its arid northern territories, hoping to transform its sandy steppes and yellow dunes into a Great Green Wall.

Workers in Kubuqi Desert Park in Inner Mongolia (Image credit: Wired)

3. Begins Carbon Market (Financial Times)

China has made movements toward launching a carbon emissions trading market for years. Such markets are thought to lower emissions quicker than non-market mechanisms. The experience in the U.S. with sulfur dioxide is an often cited example of the power of developing such a market.

Image credit: SEI International

“Setting emissions levels and credit allocation is a supremely important signal to companies and an important milestone,” said Liu Shuang, a director at Energy Foundation China. “The emergence of a carbon market in China is tremendously influential.”

"Capping emissions for China’s power sector is a daunting undertaking in any case. The sector emits 3.3bn tons of carbon dioxide annually, and a carbon trading scheme regulating it would be about 1.7 times bigger than the EU’s carbon market."

4. $360 Billion in Renewable Energy by 2020

"The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog."

Image credit: Mashable

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