China is not only the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also the leading investor in renewable energy and is placing strict limits on CO2 emissions. On March 15, two world-class experts gave E2 members and guests a look behind these seemingly contradictory trends.

Barbara Finamore, NRDC’s Asia Director and Founder of its China Program, pointed out that China is the leading contributor to global climate change, responsible for about 30% of global CO2 emissions annually, more than the U.S. and the EU combined.  Coal, the leading culprit, is responsible for nearly 80% of China’s CO2 emissions.

China’s Coal consumption has dropped for 2 years in a row
China’s coal consumption dropped 2.9% in 2014 and 3.7 % more in 2015 while CO2 emissions plateaued.  If this trend continues into the end of this year, it will be the largest recorded year-over-year reduction in coal use and CO2 emissions in any country.

NRDC’s signature project in China is championing a binding national cap on coal consumption along with energy efficiency

Importance of picking the right target
Our next speaker was Matthew Nordan, Founder and Managing Partner of MNL Partners, which develops energy and environmental projects in China and other high-growth economies.  He has shifted his focus, expertise and investment dollars primarily to China because that’s where he can make the biggest impact.

While the US infrastructure is mostly calcified, China is still largely a greenfield opportunity.  His strategy is simple:  identify urgent problems; ally with the heavyweights in China; and enlist proven innovators.  Three of China’s most urgent problems are air pollution, water and solid waste.  China is the largest producer of garbage in the world and their major method of getting rid of it is incineration, which in turn is a major contributor to their other problem – air pollution. One of his major projects is a technology that turns waste into fuel without creating air pollution.  This is a cleaner, higher value product that the electricity produced by incineration, without any of the harmful by products.

Many thanks to our host, the law firm of Wilmer Hale.

Berl Hartman is an E2 New England Chapter Director.