China and the United States have made significant progress in their bilateral cooperation on climate and energy, as evidenced by the landmark announcement — the China-US Joint Statement on Climate Change — made by President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama late last year.
How do we, in the private sector, contribute to achieving this commendable pledge? By engaging in a constructive exchange of best practices at the working level. Last April, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz led a trade mission of representatives from 24 US companies looking to launch or increase their business operations in China for sustainable products and services, such as clean air and water technologies, smart buildings, green data centers, energy efficient technologies, waste treatment technologies, smart grid and green transportation. The group visited Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
The timing couldn’t be better, particularly for the water sector. Just before the trade mission, China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced the opening of water markets for foreign investors, expanding financing options for major projects. This is just one example of how China is taking proactive, concrete measures to address water challenges.
Home to the largest population on the planet and just seven percent of the world’s fresh water, China is well positioned to play a key role in identifying solutions that will not only benefit local interests and needs, but may also have a significant impact on the world. The government has demonstrated a keen interest in tackling the challenges that come with rapid growth. For more than 20 years, the country has led the world in investing in infrastructure at an annual average rate of 8.5 percent of its overall GDP. The International Monetary Fund predicts that China will continue to spend a remarkable 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure in the coming years.
Local media reports that the Chinese government has earmarked 1.7 trillion yuan (US $330 billion) to address water challenges in China with 172 water conservation programs. These funds will be directed toward technologies such as wastewater treatment, recycling and membrane technology, as well as upgrading existing water infrastructure. Furthermore, the Ministry of Water Resources confirmed that it will increase investments in water conservation projects, surpassing the 488 billion yuan (US $75 billion) invested in 2014.
Exchanges such as the US China trade mission will help to identify the best technologies and solutions for these new investments. Chinese water industry experts agree that the use of advanced technologies will help solve the current water issues.