In a recent webisode with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Planet Forward's own Frank Sesno asked, with the race for energy leadership and innovation heating up "will China own the last half of the 21st century as the US fades?" Friedman's response? Simply put, "It could." According to two recent studies, signs seem to be pointing in the direction of "it will."
According to a study by Pew Charitable Trust released yesterday, China took the lead among the United States and other G-20 members clean energy
investments and finance in 2009. Out of $162 billion spent globally, last year China invested $34.6 billion in the clean energy economy – nearly double the United States’ total of $18.6 billion.
While global investments in clean energy rose by over 230% since 2005, during these years, the United States also trailed five
G-20 members (Turkey, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and Italy) in
the rate of clean energy investment.
Further to this trend, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found in its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010, that the world's net rate of forest loss has slowed in the last decade thanks in part to China's effort to plant trees on a "grand scale" according to BBC News. New forests were being planted to the tune of more than 7 million
hectares per year, of which China alone led to a net increase of in national forest cover of 3 million hectares per year. As a result of preservation and reforestation, the net rate of loss since the year 2000 has been
5.2 million hectares per year, compared to 8.3 million in the 1990s.
If it is true, as Friedman suggests, that the earth will change only through national competition and not international mandates, it appears that in the so-called "Earth Race" China as taken a bit of a headstart. Hopefully others will stop debating and start racing.