China's tremendous rate of economic growth has fostered a huge increase in industrial activity, energy use and consumer demand in the world's most populous nation. While many are benefiting from this expansion, the country is also faced with daunting ecological challenges - areas in which Norwegian competence could make a difference.
An estimated three-quarters of China's rivers are severely polluted, and air quality in the country's cities ranks amongst the poorest in the world. All of this has had a devastating impact on productivity, with the World Bank estimating that environmental damage costs the country eight percent of its GDP annually.
But there may be hope on the horizon. A sea change is occurring in Chinese public policy and funding, as the human and financial costs of damaging the ecology become clear. With a long history of innovating to meet high standards, Norwegian environmental technology firms are in a strong position to offer high-tech solutions to help China's cities become healthier and help the country move towards a greener economy.
China Environment & Energy Conference
Hosted by the World Bank, Innovation Norway, and actors in the Norwegian environmental technology industry such as GreenPartner and Entech, a conference focusing on Norwegian-Chinese cooperation was held in Langesund in late October 2005. The conference was well attended, with over 100 participants from business, NGOs and government present. In addition, the meeting was covered by international media, leading to a feature on the conference broadcast by Chinese television network CCTV.
The Langesund conference further developed business links between the two countries, and underlined the importance of improving China's environmental performance for the sake of the entire planet. As former Minister of the Environment Knut Arild Hareide wrote in a recent article: "There is no doubt that everyone benefits from a more environmentally friendly development in the world's most populous state. In the years to come, Norway will give cooperation with China high priority."
Smart Cars for the Olympics?
One of the highlights of the conference was the launch of the Zero Emission Smart Car, a product of Miljøbil Grenland and Electrovaya of Canada. This is a significant advance over electric vehicles currently available in Europe and Asia, and the companies have high hopes for the car to become a regular feature of cityscapes from Oslo to Shanghai.
Key to the Smart Car's success will be superior battery power. New powering technology gives the Smart Car triple the range of traditional electric vehicles, and this, according to Miljøbil Grenland's Oddbjorn Solum, "is the breakthrough technology necessary to introduce zero-emission vehicles into Norway, Scandinavia and China." Miljøbil Grenland is currently engaged in the commercialization phase of development, and has set a goal of offering this car to the Olympics that are to take place in Beijing in 2008.
|Miljøbil Grenland's "Zero Emission Smart Car" is currently engaged in the commercialization phase of development - with the goal in place of offering the car for use at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
© Miljøbil Grenland
GreenPartner Building Bridges
GreenPartner, an interest organization for the environment and energy technology sector in Norway, was one of the key participants at the Langesund conference. The organization sees its role in the industry as contributing to value creation, cooperation and project development in the sector.
GreenPartner's member companies include a wide variety of Norwegian firms offering environmental technology, services, products and expertise. Some of the leading companies in the organization include Infratek, SWECO Grøner, Aqua Guardian and Miljø-Teknologi.
In the Chinese market, GreenPartner member company Bamble Bruk, working in cooperation with Grenland Havn, Vekst in Grenland and Innovation Norway, is developing the concept of exporting fresh water to the Asian nation, straight from the abundant and clean water resources of the Norwegian mountains. Initial testing of water transported by ship from Norway to Shanghai was a success, with bacterial levels holding a steady and clean standard after a three-week container ship voyage. Bamble Bruk company officials also cite the environmentally friendly aspect of using Chinese cargo container ships - which often return from Scandinavia empty - to deliver the water to market.
Entech Introducing Norwegian Know-How to China
Another such Norwegian environmental umbrella organization is the Entech Network. Its member companies produce environmental technology, in addition to offering a wider range of equipment and services. Entech works to encourage business by cooperative initiatives within the sector, and offers the know-how and products of experienced consultants, researchers and suppliers.
Recently, Entech signed an agreement with officials in Chongqing to oversee the installation of environmental pilot projects from Entech Network firms. This is part of increased investment in environmental areas by the authorities in the city, which, with 32 million inhabitants, is believed to be the world's largest.
Entech is slated to open an office in Chongqing in 2006 in order to facilitate close cooperation with the city's Environmental Protection Bureau (CEPB) and the State Environmental Protection Administration of China (SEPA). The first phase of the project will entail the launching of eight various Norwegian technology projects, with a total worth of around NOK 30 million.
|Photographic and satellite images of Lake Wuliangsuhai, the eighth-largest lake by surface area in China. Currently 50% of the lake surface is covered with reed (in red in the illustration) - and Norwegian water research institution NIVA has delivered a comprehensive action and management plan in order to carry out rehabilitation of the lake. Local authorities plan to invest almost $150 million on rehabilitation due in part to this proposal.
Illustration: Adapted from Landsat 4 TM by NIVA
Photo © Bjørn Faafeng/NIVA
NIVA for Air & Water
The Norwegian Institute of Water Research (NIVA), a leading entity in water-related environmental issues, is also at work in China. NIVA brings broad expertise and networking to bear on projects, with more than 80 researchers in chemistry, biology, limnology, geology, hydrology, environmental technology, environmental toxicology, oceanography, geography, resource management and economy available. NIVA's goal is to develop complete management systems for water resources, taking into account fresh water, marine water, chemistry and biology as interdependent components.
In China, NIVA has established an environmental surveillance and information system for Yantai, Shandung Province. The system focuses on air and water quality, and was implemented between 1996 and 2005. Another major NIVA project is the restoration of the 300 km2 Lake Wuliangsuhai in Inner Mongolia. NIVA delivered a detailed and comprehensive action and management plan for the lake project in the fall of 2005, including cost estimates for implementation.