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Even clouds of smog have silver linings
Posted:Sep 16, 2013

Many reading this article will recall the smog that enveloped Beijing earlier this year.

Although recognized as an extraordinary weather event, this was also understood as a big warning sign of risks that lie ahead should we maintain the status quo.

The pace of action that followed, and in many cases preceded, the event is truly astounding. China's planned environmental expenditure of $275 billion dwarfs the entire national budgets of some countries, and its rapid progress in renewable energy -mainly wind and solar - puts others to shame.

It is clear that China recognizes the problem and is devoting some of the nation's considerable might toward changing its direction.

It is here that I am once again reminded of the fine line that separates challenge and opportunity as we gear up for the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian this September. Dialogue on climate change should once again be on everyone's agenda.

We know that climate change is the single greatest threat to mankind and to the living world that we inhabit. In our drive for development we claw open the earth for resources, use them up and spew the remains into the atmosphere.

The smoke stacks that dot China's countryside today are not just a feature of China's economic surge but the mark of mankind since the beginning of the industrial age.

It is my belief that a cleanup of the environment, and the damage we have already caused - in itself no easy task -is simply not enough. We must fundamentally re-think our approach to development, our understanding of responsible progress and how that may be achieved the world over.

Even clouds of smog have silver linings

We have taken some steps, and renewable energy is a great example, but there is still no clear picture of what lies ahead for us over the course of this century and beyond.

It is not for a lack of trying. Every year thousands of scientists, experts, policymakers and politicians meet across dozens of forums to achieve some form of consensus on climate change action.

I submit that is not enough, and perhaps the reason we have not yet succeeded is not that we have not tried hard enough, but because we have not been ambitious enough. And this is where we cross the line into opportunity.

It is important to remember that, over the ages, China has again and again risen to become a global power, helping shape the course of human history.

I believe it is again time for China to take the lead, to put forth a global vision and to act as a world leader that brings together people and nations to work toward a shared dream for the future.

The Chinese government has laid the foundation with recent policy changes as well as environmental actions that are a focus in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15). No doubt this will be a long road but also a truly worthwhile journey that can inspire hope as we build a better future for generations to come.

Over the past few decades, China has virtually reshaped the global economy.

China now has a golden opportunity to set out how it proposes to embrace responsible energy generation. It is an opportunity not to be missed.

The author is the chairman of Suzlon Group and a leading member of the energy industries at the World Economic Forum. He is also a Mentor of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian taking place in September 2013.

***This opinion piece was carried in the China Daily on September 11, 2013 - Even clouds of smog have silver linings

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