Sustainable Business Focus Group Quarterly Update – Q3 2015

Published on 2015-11-10

UK and China: a golden age for sustainability?

Chinese eyes were trained on the UK this month for President Xi Jinping’s State Visit, the first State Visit to the UK from China since 2005. Amid all the pomp and circumstance, both sides agreed the visit heralded a new golden era in UK-China relations.

Nowhere was this clearer than in business, with £40 billion worth of commercial deals announced. Some observers caution about drawing closer to China as it transitions towards its “new normal”. But many of these announcements demonstrate the significant opportunities for British and Chinese companies to collaborate to support China’s transition to a more sustainable growth trajectory, with major deals announced in alternative energy, low carbon innovation, and sustainable urbanisation.

The largest single deal saw China investing in a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point. Far from a one-off investment, this represents ever closer cooperation on energy which can in turn support China’s own ambitious nuclear energy and renewable energy programmes as it seeks to peak its carbon emissions by 2030.

Innovation is key, and it was announced that Chinese investment is supporting the development of Aston Martin’s zero-emission Rapide sports car, and a new fleet of zero-emission black cabs to be developed by the London Taxi Company. With strong Chinese backing, it probably won’t be long before they arrive on the streets of Shanghai.

Urbanisation presents a particular challenge to China’s sustainable development, and a major joint research programme on sustainable urbanisation between BRE, Tsinghua University and Evergrande was launched during the visit. Several major Chinese property developers also announced investments into UK urban regeneration projects, not just benefiting the UK but bringing opportunities to apply the experience learned in the UK to their developments in China.

As President Xi returns to China, attention will rapidly shift towards China’s 13th Five Year Plan, due to be unveiled shortly. The promotion of more sustainable development in China is expected to be a key feature of this plan. President Xi’s visit demonstrates how the UK and British companies can play an important role in supporting this, meaning sustainability should be a major part of this new golden era.