【2023TCF】One World, One Family: Coming Together to Solve Environmental and Energy Issues in a Rapidly Developing World: Keynote Speech by Erik Solheim
15 September , 2023
Ni Hao, Taiyuan. 
You give me such an enormous pleasure to address this important Taiyuan summit to focus on the environment and energy solutions in the rapidly developing world. Thank you so much for inviting me. 
In 2005, then Party Secretary of Zhejiang Province Xi Jinping went to the small hillside town of Anji, and he made his famous speech. He said that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, as important as silver and gold. I think he meant to send two messages to us. One, we need to protect Mother Earth much better. We humans cannot survive without the planet. But this planet will do very well without us. We depend on Mother Earth, and we need to care better for her. And secondly, Xi Jinping wants to give us the message: green is gold. We can create any amount of value, jobs, prosperity, and economic power if we go green. And that's the cause indeed what China is doing today, combining economy and ecology into green development of China. 
I visited Anji a couple of weeks ago again, and the development in that part of Zhejiang is unbelievable. This was a very polluted town a few decades back, and then you sit in the old polluted factory, buildings. Today, there are restaurants, there are concert halls, there are a beautiful center, libraries for culture, and in the surroundings are greenery and sunflowers, rice paddies, and a fantastic, beautiful and green scene of the forest. In the past, the rivers of Zhejiang province were called milky rivers, not because they were very healthy like milk, but because they were polluted, so even it was so white that people didn't want to touch them. Now 97 % of all rivers in Zhejiang are clean, and you can send your 2-year-old son or daughter into the river to go for a swim, to drink the water, with no problem whatsoever. So Zhejiang symbolizes this enormous progress in China.
Meanwhile, Taiyuan's cause is a major role to play in that context. Largely, the energy capital of China, Taiyuan is one of the Chinese cities with the greatest history, meaning the great plain Taiyuan was the capital or the regional capital of so many dynasties throughout Chinese history. The city is many thousand years old, while my nation has a recorded history of only 1,000 years. Taiyuan, for instance, was the northern capital of the Tang Dynasty. It was indeed the northern base of Li Shimin, maybe the most impressive leader in the history of China, the Tang Taizong Emperor. He had his base in Taiyuan and that dynasty in the end conquered China. 
The topic of today is the global trends in energy and the environment, and I would like to point out four for you. 
First, we are living in the Asian century. China indeed but also Indonesia in the terrestrial of Asia, is now dominating the green transformation. China accounts for 60% to 80% of all green energies in the entire world from the country alone. It's dominating the solar, wind, hydropower, soon to become in green hydrogen, and of course in electric mobility, electric cars, and high-speed rail. Taiyuan is connected to the great Chinese railway system. There is nothing similar to that except maybe for part of Europe and Japan. India is behind China, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, India is also moving very very fast into green development. So India will very soon become the second biggest solar nation in the world after China. And they go begin to green hydrogen and several other new green developments. So while a lot is also happening in Europe and the United States, it's fair to say that this is the Asian century, and Asia, with China and the two giants, China and India, those of the nations are in the lead. 
Secondly, as the world is dominated by business, not by diplomacy, some environmentalists tend to focus on diplomatic conferences. Frankly, they very often bring very little. That's because they became a game between diplomats and politicians who want to score small victors in the diplomatic discussions, completely unrelated to the real life of people out there. The change we now see in many nations is led not so much by politics, but as much by business. Let me point to Indonesia as an example. Last year, deforestation in Indonesia came down to zero. That's a fantastic result. It's the second-biggest rainforest nation in the world and no deforestation, and of course, China is the main market for nearly all products from Indonesia with its paper pulp, its palm oil, The market is China. This has also a huge impact on the Chinese environment when Indonesia can bring deforestation down to zero. That's led by the Jokowi government in Indonesia, but the private sector and businesses are also playing a key role. RGE, is the biggest or second biggest paper pulp company in the world, one of the biggest in palm oil, and the biggest viscose company in the world, in the past, that company was a part of the problem because it contributed to deforestation. Now, such a big Indonesian company is part of the solution leading the charge toward a green economy, zero deforestation in its value chains, and indeed even protecting a huge rainforest. In that, I know Sumatra and that rainforest protected by the company is better protected than those protected by their government because they simply don't have the fire brigades and the helicopters and whatever you need to protect the forest. But RGE is just one example. In the United States, until recently business was far ahead of politics. Microsoft, for example, has promised to go carbon neutral by 2030. Microsoft even promised to compensate for all emissions in the history of the company, going back to the starting point in the 1970s or 80s.These are amazing promises and of course, the economy just on Microsoft is much bigger than the economy of most nations in the world. So action by business in the world and China matters. And of course, China now has the biggest companies in basically every green business. LONGi in Xi'an is the biggest solar company in the world, Envision in Jiangsu province is one of the biggest companies in the wind sector, Goldwind is the biggest wind power company in the world, China's Three Gorges - is the biggest hydropower company in the world. And BYD in Shenzhen is now the biggest electric car company in the entire world. It just passed Tesla in that space. Of course, it shows also the enormous benefit for the Chinese economy. China didn't have any brands in the old car economy and didn't compete with Toyota, or Volkswagen in that economy, but in the new, electric mobility economy, China now has about ten brands, BYD, Geely, NIO, Xpeng and so many others. Indeed, last year, China passed Japan as the biggest exporter of automobiles in the world, good for the economy, good for the ecology, and led by the private sector.
The third trend is the importance of tech. As the emergence of artificial intelligence, and high tech with green development gives huge opportunities which it didn't have in the past. As an example, Huawei is using its high-tech to make solar power look more efficient. And if you can make the energy going more efficient, well, then you save on energy. In Yalong River in Sichuan, they are now merging solar wind and hydropower as a battery to make an enormously big but also smoothly-working energy system powered by high tech in their long river and in creating energy with 100 million people just from that river. And Huawei, by the way, in Hainan, is now using its high tech to detect the voices of the monkeys there. These monkeys are one of the most threatened species on the planet. And Huawei can use the high tech to understand when the monkeys feel fear. They feel fear detected by the high tech. And then the gardeners can take action to try to remove the fear of the monkeys. So Asia is dominating this century. Business is at the lead. High tech is very central. 
And the fourth trend is the importance of nature. So many of the green solutions we need for the future are in nature itself. And here China is now playing a vital role. China is the biggest tree planter in the world by far. China is now embarking on a huge national park system. National parks were indeed started in the United States. The first national park in the world was Yellowstone made by the American war hero Ulysses S. Grant back in the day. But now China is embarking on that massive national park system, many of them in Qinghai and Tibet. Very recently, President Xi Jinping went to Guangdong province and visited the mangrove forest. I wish many more leaders would go to mangrove forests because that's so central to the environment of the future. And now, Chinese-led international best practice for mangrove centers to be set up in Shenzhen. There are some worrisome developments in the world, like the war in Ukraine, but fascinating when it comes to the energy transformation. And the effect of this horrible war is good because every nation, now supercharging is moved into renewables. European nations do not want to be dependent on Russia, so they go much faster into renewables than they planned in the past. But also nations who do import a lot from Russia, like China and India, don't want to be dependent on the very volatile international oil and gas prices. Indeed, if China can replace imported oil with solar, wind, hydropower, or green hydrogen in China, it would be good for the environment, but it would also create jobs in China rather than abroad, and it saves money for China to use on education or health, rather good sectors in the Chinese economy. 
I visited Taiyuan a few years ago. I was struck by the beauty of the town. It was much greener, and much cleaner than I had anticipated because it was centered in the traditional coal area of China. But it was a marvelous fantastic town. I wish you complete success with this conference in Taiyuan, the Taiyuan summit. I believe that the impact of the conference can be big because China is now at a crossroads when it's moved from being in the backseat of environmental development in the world to the absolute front seat to being a global leader. But we need to work together, China, India, Europe, America, everyone. If you work together, we can solve all the major problems of these in the world. An old Indian is saying, 3,000 years old, it says the entire world is one family that should be our spirit. 
Thank you so much. 
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