China's greening of its financial market reform

By Simon Zadek
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 25, 2015
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At a snail's pace [By Jiao Haiyang/]

Much has been said about the state of China's natural environment. At least $5 trillion, or about 50 percent of the country's annual GDP, is needed to repair the damage done over recent decades.

Some 20 percent of agricultural land is toxic to human health. Up to 1 million people die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution, with lung cancer rates increasing by almost 500 percent in the past three decades. Those concerned with climate change know that nothing can be fixed unless pollution is dramatically reduced, and those focused on international developments understand the importance of greening China's rapidly growing outward investment.

Fortunately, the country's high profile climate agreement with the US is the tip of an iceberg of efforts to curb environmental pollution on many fronts. China's coal consumption fell by more than 2 percent last year, signaling what might be the most important fossil fuel peak in modern times. Clean energy investment jumped 32 percent in 2014 to a record $89.5 billion, as compared a meager 1 percent growth across Europe. Even Beijing's infamous smog levels fell last year, according to the municipal Environmental Protection Agency.

Such advances provide grounds for optimism, but it will take far more to pivot China's massive economy to green.

Redirecting finance has to be part of the answer. Financial market reform is central to China's overall reform efforts. Familiar reforms are under development that if successful will deliver a better governed and more extensive and diversified financial and capital markets. Until recently, however, such plans have not explicitly embraced the policy goal of greening China`s development.

"Green finance" has risen up China's policy agenda. In 2007, the China Banking Regulatory Commission established its Green Credit Guidelines as an innovative attempt to raise awareness and action on the environment.

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