The world’s biggest polluter is now the global leader in renewable-energy spending

Going up.
Going up.
Image: Reuters/China Daily
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“Twenty years ago Europeans were still teaching China how to draft environmental law.”

That’s a direct quote from Nick Mabey, CEO of climate change think tank E3G, in a press release accompanying the organization’s report on renewables this week.

How things have changed. In the past five years, China has become the top investor in renewable energy, far outstripping the European Union, the former market leader.

Image for article titled The world’s biggest polluter is now the global leader in renewable-energy spending
Image: E3G/BNEF/Xinhuanet

The country will like overtake the region in installations of new wind and solar technology in the next five years, if its plans hold up, E3G said. In 2015, cumulative sales of electric vehicles in China reached 450,000, 50% higher than in the EU. For the first time in 2014, China spent more on research and development of renewables than Europe.

Ten years ago, Europe saw China as a market for its own green exports, Mabey said. “Today, China is on the verge of dominating the global clean energy economy. The EU must act decisively to stay in the race,” he said.

China is building the infrastructure for cleaner electricity at the world’s fastest rate. And that’s a lot: globally last year, up to 90% of new energy capacity came from renewable sources, according to a report this week from the International Energy Association. China’s coal consumption began falling in 2014 for the first time this century, and last year its carbon emissions followed, falling by 1.5%.