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Why Cleantech Startups Should be Looking at China

high-angle view of high rise buildings

There’s a new administration in the White House, which could mean great news for cleantech entrepreneurs in the United States. After a grueling four years of climate change denial where it matters most, the cleantech industry is preparing for a much-needed influx of support, investment, and opportunity. It’s about time, too; if we are to stay within the goal of a one-point-five degrees Celsius rise in the Earth’s temperature, the United States must take significant steps towards decarbonization.

The United States isn’t the only country where climate-positive technology is thankfully thriving; one might be surprised to learn that the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses is also taking major strides to create a healthier planet.

China is time and again portrayed by western media in a negative, often misinformed light; this has been especially apparent throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of this, it’s no secret that the relationship between China and the US is a complex one, fraught with bouts of both cooperation and contention.

Despite our perceived differences, the entrepreneurial spirit driving innovations in the cleantech space is one area where we can find commonality.

Three ways China is championing the cleantech industry:

  1. China is now the leading producer of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. This isn’t just beneficial for China through reductions in air pollution and boosts for their economy; China’s high production levels are also advantageous to the rest of the world through their influence on dropping energy prices.
  2. President Xi Jinping has ambitious goals for decarbonization. In fact, he has pledged that China will reach peak emissions levels by the year 2030, and by 2060 will reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. These goals have had a domino effect in inspiring other countries to ramp up their decarbonization targets.
  3. China has disproved many of the myths spread by the Trump Administration. This, of course, includes the one where Trump claimed that climate change was a Chinese-created hoax.

Build bridges, not walls.

To beat climate change, the United States and China must be united in their efforts. After all, the two countries already share many of the challenges and barriers faced by cleantech entrepreneurs and startups. These include things such as securing funding and financing, scaling technologies and navigating ever-changing political climates.

To achieve success, we have to look past our differences and realize just how similar we are. There’s a new podcast hosted by Andrew Change and Marilyn Waite that highlights many of these similarities. The podcast, China Cleantech, features the fascinating stories of innovative cleantech entrepreneurs in China who are paving the way towards decarbonization. Listening to the entrepreneurs’ stories gives insight into how connected the opposite sides of the globe really are and showcases the bigger picture behind the cleantech revolution – one of harmony and partnership.

No matter where we come from, we’re all trying to get to the same place. Decarbonization is a common goal that should not ignite disputes or contentions but should inspire collaboration and cooperation. We must build bridges, not walls, between the United States and China.

Jane Marsh is a Masters of the Environment candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder studying Renewable and Sustainable Energy. She is passionate about the environment, coffee, and using the renewable energy transition to advance social equity.

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