China has a chance to take the lead in sustainability: Novozymes CEO

By Wang Jiamei in Hangzhou Published: 2016/9/8 14:11:07

In terms of sustainability and climate change, China has a chance to be at the forefront of putting legislation in place and taking the lead on the issue, CEO of Danish industrial biotech giant Novozymes said.

"The Sino-US agreement on climate change is a very important step, and probably the real reason why the Paris climate agreement has got an actual reach," Peder Holk Nielsen, president and CEO of Novozymes, told the Global Times on Saturday, noting that China has done a fantastic job with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by setting targets for sustainable growth.

According to Nielsen, China is already marking some important milestones, like using more renewables in its energy mix.

As one of the business executives attending the Business 20 (B20) summit, held on Saturday and Sunday in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, Nielsen said his company takes a particular interest in sustainability.

It is widely accepted that CO2 emissions need to be brought down and that it will require a lot of transformation to get to carbon neutrality. Countries that are more mature have to invest a lot in energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption, while at the same time, emerging countries like China have to work on their investments in energy and try to do the best they can to make energy as sustainable as possible, Nielsen said.

"Transformation toward sustainability requires that we don't do tomorrow what we did yesterday, that is to say, transformation is always complicated and it takes time," he noted. "And the challenge here is not the change itself, that's an issue I think will happen in any case. It's more about the speed, we need to make it happen fast."

There are risks in some of the technologies geared for sustainability, and one way of dealing with the risks is to provide green financing so that sustainable companies can have a better chance of receiving financing, Nielsen pointed out, adding that another issue is to create stability so that investors can understand how it will look like for the next 10 or 15 years, not just for two years.

In regards to traditional industries that find it hard to move towards sustainability, these unsustainable behaviors will be very expensive and will not be affordable in the long term, according to Nielsen.

For instance, you can always argue that it is difficult to make steel mills really sustainable. Besides working on energy efficiency and being smart, a real improvement in terms of sustainability is to have a more circular economy. As opposed to bringing in new raw materials, steel mills could provide more recycled materials, he noted, citing an example about building materials that can be reused if the building is torn down. 

The new mindset should be: you produce to use and then to reuse.

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