Large expenditures on innovation, like China seems ready to commit to, are great, but these must have a green push
Given the intensity and frequency of unusual weather and climatic phenomena that the world has been encountering for the past few years, all countries need to make a concerted effort to accelerate decarbonisation of economies. (Representative image)
Most countries realise future growth lies in powering innovation across sectors. While the Indian government announced an increase in R&D expenditure in its Budget for the coming fiscal, China, last week, at a conference, unveiled the draft of its 14th national five-year plan, which envisages a 7% increase in R&D expenditure every year for the next five year.
The plan marries well with the country’s ongoing shift from being an exporter of low-tech goods to a high-tech manufacturing and digital economy. In fact, China has been leading the world in terms of the adoption of robotics as well—for perspective, India has just a sixth of China’s robot workforce. The impetus to new-age tech, via the national plan, is expected to push Chinese R&D spending to 2.8% of its GDP and bring it on a par with the Western world. In comparison, India spends only 0.65% of its GDP on R&D.
However, as per a report by Science, there is a big disappointment that overhangs the latest Chinese push to innovation. While technology is certainly a way to counter environmental change and move towards emission targets under the Paris accord, China has set modest targets of a 20% increase in no-fossil energy consumption and a 18% decrease in carbon emissions per unit of GDP.
This needs to be accelerated not just for China, but across the world. And, if the current innovation plan doesn’t have a strong renewables, carbon-sequestering technology focus, whether such boost can be beneficial or not (given digital companies are starting to have a large carbon footprint) remains a big question. Given the intensity and frequency of unusual weather and climatic phenomena that the world has been encountering for the past few years, all countries need to make a concerted effort to accelerate decarbonisation of economies.