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An Emerging Revolution

Clean Technology Research, Development and Innovation in China

This working paper examines efforts made by China---the world’s largest gross emitter of greenhouse gases---to create an enabling environment for R&D and innovation in the field of clean technology.

Executive Summary

Technology has long powered human progress, and remains central to global development. In the decades ahead, developing and deploying clean energy, low carbon technologies will also play a crucial role in countering perhaps the biggest global threat of our times: climate change.

Our ability to deploy effective technologies, on a scale large enough to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, depends on two key factors: the direction, and the pace, of technological innovation. The direction of technological innovation, to a large extent, is contingent on a balanced, technology-neutral approach to energy policy (Weiss and Bonvillian, 2009; Diazanadon, etc. 2009). The pace of technological innovation, on the other hand, depends on a range of factors including, critically, the presence of effective domestic policies to spur research and innovation. Such policies will be particularly important in major developing countries whose emissions are accelerating and which lack the long established research and development (R&D) infrastructure of industrialized countries.

This working paper examines efforts made by China – the world’s largest gross emitter of greenhouse gases – to create an enabling environment for R&D and innovation in the field of clean technology. The goal is to highlight how governments in developing countries can craft effective technology policies against the backdrop of a pending international climate agreement expected to trigger significant new financing for clean technology assistance. The paper summarizes China’s policies to prioritize, fund and deploy clean technology R&D and innovation over the short and medium term. These comprehensive policies reflect China’s ambition of emerging as a global power in science and technology through clean technology R&D and innovation.

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