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China devoted to a shared green future

By Erik Solheim | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-27 08:12
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People walk past CATL's headquarters in Ningde, Fujian province, on March 14, 2023. [Photo by Li Fusheng/]

Recently, I paid a wonderful visit to the headquarters of Chinese battery manufacturer CATL in the small city of Ningde in Fujian province and was taken into the exciting future of the electric battery world.

CATL, founded by Zeng Yuqun in 1999 as ATL, started as a small factory and quickly grew to become the world's biggest electric battery manufacturer. It leads the global market, holding one-third of the market share.

CATL's newest batteries last longer than the car and run 1,000 km on one charge. The batteries can charge in a few minutes and are the safest in the world. CATL is on the road to unlocking "game-changing" batteries as its top scientists lead the research into future solid-state and metal-free batteries. The company has injected transformation and innovation in the industry and is one of the world's most important companies in the green revolution.

As the world's largest provider of electric batteries, CATL has been enhancing its global footprint through partnerships with outstanding automakers such as BMW, Daimler, Hyundai and Toyota. Notably, CATL is the main supplier to Tesla. As the battery is half the value of an electric vehicle, it is hard to say whether a Tesla is an American car with a Chinese battery or a Chinese battery with an American carrosserie.

Unlike the situation some years ago when Western countries led in many frontier technologies, global electric battery production so far is dominated by China's CATL and BYD, South Korea's LG Energy and Japan's Panasonic. These Asian companies together hold over 90 percent of the market share, leaving very little space for participants from the West or elsewhere.

Electric batteries may be the most important technology for the green revolution. We need them for cars, but also to store energy, as the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing all the time, every day. China now is at the forefront of the green transformation. The world simply cannot go forward without China. It has become the indispensable green partner for the rest of the world. China leads in nearly all industries critical to the green shift, accounting for 60-80 percent of all solar, wind and hydro power as well as electric cars, buses and batteries, and high-speed rail. China is taking green technologies to scale, leads innovation and makes green products cheaper and accessible.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) is taking place in Dubai soon (Nov 30-Dec 12). Few expect any major breakthroughs from the talks. But the event is also a climate fair, where progress is showcased, business deals made and where people learn from each other. Climate talks are no longer the main drivers of change. The economy is. The drastic fall in the price of renewable energies is more significant to our struggle than texts at a conference table. Climate action taken by political leaders and business is the real key to climate success.

China is leading the way on many fronts. In addition to being a global leader in green technologies, China has moved to the front seat on nature conservation.

China is by far the most enthusiastic tree-planting nation in the world, having planted more than 78 billion trees in the past four decades, doubling the forest coverage rate from the early 1980s.

To build a beautiful China, the country has launched an ambitious plan for national parks. It is on track to keep 230,000 square kilometers of land under protection, giving space to key endangered species such as the giant panda, snow leopard, Siberian tiger and the Tibetan antelope.

A massive mangrove conservation and restoration project is another amazing accomplishment. China has become one of the few countries in the world to see a net gain in mangrove cover. By 2025, over 18,000 hectares of mangrove forests will be created and restored. Shenzhen will host the first international mangrove best practice center.

Cities in China such as Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Chengdu have evolved at an amazing speed, becoming among the world's greenest cities along with Amsterdam, Paris, Singapore or Hyderabad. Shenzhen owns some of the greatest green corridors in the world and leads the world in electric buses and taxis. Hangzhou has won a number of environment awards and just hosted a "green" Asian Games. Chengdu makes the headlines for its green buildings and the pioneering approach to building the city with nature.

Fifteen years ago I would never go jogging in most Chinese cities, the smog was so thick. Now China has basically won the war on pollution, the sun is clear and the sky is blue. In the same period China has moved to global leadership in nearly all green disciplines. Together with the other global giants like the US, the EU and India this will change the world. Smaller countries can also be inspired to fight for an ecological civilization.

A shared green future requires a joint effort. The world needs to unify, working and succeeding together in this great endeavor and making breakthroughs which would define the future for mankind.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

The author is the vice-chairman of the Europe-Asia Center, a nonprofit based in Brussels, and former UN deputy secretary-general and executive director of the UN Environmental Programme.

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