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Professor Mathews' latest book sends a powerful message, not just to rapidly industrialising nations India and China but also to the hitherto industrialised economies, to take affirmative action towards the greening of industrial growth. The extremely relevant, but often complex, discussion of the two critical pillars and their impacts (as well as opportunities) has been projected with strong evidence in the areas of:
i) Materials use efficiency via the adoption of circular economy techniques, urban mining and the planned transformation of industrial districts into eco-industrial parks.
ii) Energy efficiency and security via the surge in renewable power and a strong domestic manufacturing environment for renewable technology.
The author's arguments drive home the oft inconspicuous geopolitical limits to resources access, which may in fact be more immediate and serious than the widely contested environmental limits. Debugging myths surrounding an irrefutable renewables future, the book offers solid evidence on the imminent displacement of traditional energy systems. Current development models lack robust finance mechanisms to sustain ambitious "green" projects. Conventional patterns will lead to conventional outcomes, and a 'global green shift' necessitates the creation of fitting sources and metrics for financial viability, bearing in mind the long-term investments and benefits.
What is thought provoking for those of us not glued into this space, is the revelation that China is leading with concrete action on green industrialisation at scale. Not all prevalent accounts depict the world's factory bypassing conventional pathways to sustain its future growth. The author’s take on China’s case for renewables manufacturing and its global domination present unmistakable lessons for India – currently on an intensive manufacturing growth path and simultaneously motivated to accomplish aggressive expansion of renewable power infrastructure. China’s learning curve for renewable capabilities benefits from strong renewables manufacturing (technology, hardware, parts), as well as improved cost efficiency (production at scale; lowered cost of installation and price to industrial users; tariff reduction).
The above accomplishments offer solid footing for India’s future based on grid connectivity and remote power access on the one hand, and balanced socio-environmental economic growth on the other. While lowering of solar tariffs, which for the first time surpassed coal earlier this year, is a feather in India’s cap, it in no way undermines the strong fillip needed to make local producers internationally competitive. And with the latest projections that incentives for the sector will be gradually removed, it remains to be seen how and when commercial viability will make India’s power sector a formidable global force.
Lastly, I agree with the author's position that a global green shift needs disruptive strategies at scale; only then will a circular transformation from current linear models be widespread and profitable. Significant action both in the form of policy and industry implementation will make the transformation lasting. This book is a must read for anyone interested in geopolitics, sustainability, green growth and emerging markets.
- Simran Talwar, Doctoral Candidate, Macquarie Graduate School of Management