Liu, co-founder of JUCCCE, the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, organised the fourth China Energy Clean Technology Forum last year.

Is China serious about environmental change? With the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans for the nation, China has set firm targets for emissions and energy reductions. China is clearly not doing this in response to international pressures or simply climate change, but the growing reality that energy, water and food security are key to the future.

How are businesses reacting to the government’s push to become more sustainable? Hedging your bets and having insurance towards future fluctuations in energy, water and water prices and inputs just makes business sense in a country that is still the factory of the world. These input prices affect competitiveness, so local companies are paying attention.

What does this mean for the next wave of Chinese to join the urban middle classes? More than half a billion people were lifted out of poverty in China because of land redistribution reforms – but that is unreplicable today. China is about producing and selling goods. GDP is reliant on this. As they consider the future flow of growth, there is an overlap between poverty reduction and environmental stability.

How can the average person guarantee against these fluctuations? The next achievable miracle may come from the ability of farmers or anyone with a rooftop to generate and sell electricity on their own. This could be international: anyone with space, equipment and microfinance.

Are there already examples? In Germany, farmers are putting solar panels on fields and finding it doesn’t interfere with sunlight or affect crop yields. — mz

Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Monocle magazine. For the original PDF article, please click here: Peggy Liu Q&A.

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