Cleantech innovation set to take off under China’s new Five Year Plan: Changhua Wu

2 March 2016

Ahead of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and annual National People’s Congress this week where China’s 13th Five Year Plan will be finalized, Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, explains the importance of China’s focus on clean tech innovation – and why it is the central theme of The Climate Group’s Global Cleantech Summit in Beijing on March 23.

In the face of both economic and environmental pressures, China, the world’s second biggest economy – which also accounts for the world’s biggest single share of greenhouse gas emissions – is poised to make clean technology the heart of its next Five-Year Plan.

The National People’s Congress of China met last year to decide on the guiding principles for the 13th Five-Year Plan, which is the roadmap for the country’s economic and social development from 2016 to 2020. In it, they set out five overarching concepts to encompass China’s transformation: innovation; coordination; green, low carbon development; openness and sharing. But it was ‘innovation’ that was front and center of discussions. And it will be innovation that dominates dialogue at the National People’s Congress in Beijing this week.

To support China’s new drive for low carbon innovation, The Climate Group is convening the Global Cleantech Summit in Beijing, China, on March 23-24. The Summit is a leadership platform that brings investors and companies together to help meet the 13th Five-Year Plan goals and accelerate finance so innovative clean technologies can flourish.

Strengthening engagement between clean technology companies, investors and government to capitalize on supporting the most dynamic and game-changing projects is the cornerstone of China’s future. The direction of the country’s travel is clear. China is set on achieving innovative, low carbon growth – and securing a climate-resilient economy.


In what Chinese President Xi Jinping has termed the ‘energy revolution’, the world’s largest energy consumer – where coal accounts for two thirds of total demand – is turning to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Scaling-up renewable energy across the country will help fill its energy demand gap and reach its climate targets. In the final stages of its historic industrialization, China may face great challenges to fulfil these aims, but more importantly, it also faces great opportunity.

While China’s heavy coal reliance sets a precedent for an unstable future, there is huge promise for the world’s larg­est producer of renewable energy technologies to tip the balance toward accelerated innovation, commercialization and mass scale-up of clean energy technologies.

Compelling economic and environmental returns are available when the right public-private partnerships are formed and smart investments are made.

But the delivery of China’s energy transformation lies in building a complete ‘ecological civilization’. This means as well as reducing fossil fuel use to cut emissions, we must alleviate resource constraints and fight air pollution. We must double the share of renewable energy in China’s mix. And the many risks and intertwined nature of these challenges clearly cries out for innovation. 


The global COP21 climate talks last year saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement by 195 countries to curb global temperature rise by well below 2 degrees Celsius. It makes clear the world’s direction of travel toward a future of expansive clean energy.

However, success in Paris arrived partly due to years of deliberation and market withdrawal from clean energy innovation. A previous lack of trust in the ability of renewables to become cost-competitive fuelled, in part, the failure to produce a collective international response to climate change at the 2009 COP15 in Copenhagen.

But since then, clean technology and energy productivity continues to move forward. As it becomes efficient, costs continue to drop, and businesses and governments continue to act on the opportunity to leverage even greater low carbon innovation.

After all, the cost of solar photovoltaics dropped 75% since Copenhagen, and by 2014 renewables made up over half of energy investment globally. Then last year, global clean investment attracted a record breaking US$329 billion; a rise of six times the amount from 2004. Solar and wind attracted the majority of investment – and these are the technologies that will form the basis of China’s energy transformation in its Five-Year Plan.

If we knew back in 2008 how fast the clean technology price-drop would be, the international community would have been far more confident in making the right commitments to tackling climate change in Copenhagen.


In order for clean technology to be successful in China and beyond, finance is of course critical. And streamlining multi-stakeholder engagement to support the most dynamic and game-changing clean tech projects inevitably helps educate the market. It makes clear that a clean energy dominant, climate-resilient economy is an opportunity too big to pass up. But we must facilitate this inevitable change.

The Climate Group’s Global Cleantech Summit in Beijing, will bring investor groups and leading companies together to catalyze this change. And we will ignite this transition with the launch the ‘Accelerator 100’ project.

Accelerator 100 will connect 100 of China’s leading clean technology and energy companies with powerful investors. Those scalable solutions with the most potential to significantly reduce emissions and improve energy productivity will be shared with policymakers, financial institutions and technical experts, to help accelerate the inevitable clean tech revolution.

Now is the time to turn Paris Agreement commitments into action by implementing its targets and turning the staple concepts of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan into concrete, financially attractive and truly innovation-led projects. Solid partnerships between China’s leading companies, financial sector and government will pave the way to meet these targets.

Empowering clean, low carbon technologies will truly shift the paradigm of the energy landscape in China for the next five years – and far, far beyond.

Join us for the Global Cleantech Summit on March 23-24, 2016.

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