TheArticle: China is abandoning clean energy investment. Britain should plug the gap

This piece was first published on TheArticle.

Climate change has soared to the top of the agenda for governments around the world. Yet, somehow, during the first half of last year, global investment in clean energy fell to its lowest level in five years.

That dramatic change in fortunes is mostly down to China, which has undergone a sudden drop in renewable energy investment. The Chinese government slashed its solar and wind subsidies by $117.6 billion, causing a sharp fall in the number of new projects worldwide. The disappearance of 39 per cent of China’s funding amounted to a 14 per cent drop in global renewable investment. Of the Chinese Communist Party’s many sins, this is not the most grievous. In the last year alone, China has covered up vital coronavirus information which could have saved thousands of lives, openly suppressed freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, and undertaken a heinous persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

As a result, we are entering a period of “de-Sinoficiation“. Western nations are beginning the long process of disentangling their politics and economies from China. In the UK, that kicked off with the ungraceful removal of Huawei from the incoming 5G network.

As China reneges on its climate change commitments, now is the perfect time for Britain to step up and lead the way on both renewable energy and de-Sinoficiation by diverting new resources to investment in promising clean energy projects around the world.

The UK is already taking steps in the right direction. For instance, in November of last year, UK Export Finance (UKEF) committed a £230 million investment fund to the construction of offshore wind farms in Taiwan, making it the main finance provider for that project. The money will fund the installation of 47 turbines, which will go a long way towards helping Taiwan achieve its targets of generating 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

This touches on another highly sensitive but crucially important issue: the One-China Policy. For too long, the international community has stuck by Beijing, keeping Taiwan at arm’s length. De-Sinofication, if it is to be effective, must include reviving relations with Taiwan, a country whose patience is admirable in the face of a near-universal, wholly unjust shunning.

There is plenty more that can be done to bring together the twin projects of clean energy and de-Sinoficiation, especially in Taiwan. Just last month, Apple was credited with boosting the Taiwanese renewable energy market through its own climate pledges. British industry — and government — ought to be making similar promises and making better use of other governments’ efforts in this area.

By demonstrating our commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels, Britain could fill the gap left by China and show the world that post-Brexit Britain will be green; that we will set an example on pro-market, pro-innovation environmentalism. That’s a vital message to send, especially as we negotiate free trade deals with countries around the world, and as American voters go to the polls in November.

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