20th Anniversary Stories

Energy Revolution and Low-Carbon Future for the Humankind: A Message From the President of Energy Foundation China on the Organization’s 20th Birthday

Zou Ji
CEO & President, Energy Foundation China

The year of 2019 is a rather unusual year. It’s the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It coincides with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. This is also the year that many Chinese from all walks of life have just reviewed the 40 years of reform and opening up of the country. The people are now eyeing a new phase of development in the coming decade and beyond. The country is poised to usher in formal implementation of the Paris Agreement as well, which is known as “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.” Standing at this important juncture, Energy Foundation China happens to be celebrating its 20th birthday as an environmental philanthropy in the country. While we are filled with emotions reminiscing about our past, our eyes are firmly set upon the future.

In the past 20 years, the world has witnessed the rise of a global revolution on energy—which is surely just a prelude of more profound changes to come—and the trend of de-carbonization in power generation, transportation, construction, and industry. Green and low-carbon development has gradually become a reality in our lifetime. China has achieved remarkable economic development during this period. But as the world’s largest energy consumer and the largest source of energy growth, it also faces enormous pressure in the area of environmental pollution, challenges on energy security, and threats from climate change. By now, the country has come to realize that its economic growth cannot continue to rely on the extensive development model of high investment and heavy resources consumption. And her people are gradually strengthening their resolve and speeding up actions with regard to a low-carbon transformation of the economy. China has actively promoted green development and decarbonization with concrete actions, such as the introduction of the most stringent law in history on air pollution prevention and control, enhancement of supervision and law enforcement, drastic adjustment of energy structure, optimization of economic structure, and cultivation of fresh momentum. At the same time, China has actively participated in the global fight against climate change, acting as a pillar of support for the international efforts from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. It’s fair to say that China has been gradually undertaking a dazzling strategic transformation as its economy matures. It is now taking up the responsibility of a major world power in the area of environmental protection, and contributing Chinese wisdom toward related global governance. So far, the country has provided one of the most exciting stages for global energy revolution and development path innovation. This is the fundamental reason why Energy Foundation China has steadfastly put down roots here. And during this period, we are very fortunate to have attracted an outstanding staff who are hardworking and dedicated to our cause.

Energy Foundation China has been pushing forward with a culture of philanthropy in our endeavor to help explore the future for China to achieve economic prosperity and climate safety through cooperation. The foundation was founded in San Francisco, and established its name in the area of sustainable energy practices and cooperation between China and the United States. Since entering China in 1999, we have been exploring about: how best to utilize the expertise of charities from around the world in order to match the scale and speed of China’s energy transformation; how to make charitable funds play a role of seed capital so as to make greater contributions to the development of Chinese renewable energy and improve its efficiency; how to make the most of charity foundations’ role as a bridge and a service platform for international cooperation, so that best practices and innovative ideas at home and abroad can become catalysts for accelerating energy transformation in China and the world at large. For two decades, we have had the privilege of supporting China’s top think tanks, research institutes, universities, industry associations, and fast developing civil society organizations to carry out fruitful works in promoting sustainable energy. By the end of 2018, we had funded more than 2,700 projects, operated by over 750 grantees in China, with grants exceeding $300 million.

Here are some of the major initiatives undertaken by Energy Foundation China:

  • We were among the first organizations to call for a renewable energy law in China and were invited by the National People’s Congress to provide technical assistance to the drafting of such a piece of legislation.
  • We took the lead in introducing voluntary agreements on energy conservation, and provided support for the design and implementation of both “Energy Conservation Actions for 1000 Enterprises” and “Energy Conservation and Low-Carbon Actions for 10,000 Enterprises”.
  • We took action early on to support research on the China VI emission standard for passenger vehicles, promoted dialogue and cooperation between the Chinese automotive industry and various stakeholders, and actively introduced international experiences in this area to China. In order to facilitate the world’s most stringent vehicle emission standard by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, we also provided support on policy research.
  • We were among the first to introduce and promote practices of the “people-centered” urban planning concept, and assisted major cities such as Kunming, Chongqing, and Shanghai in launching policies and pilot projects on humanized urban planning and design.
  • For over 10 years, we have provided support for the study of coordinated management and control of atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases. Now, such measures are ready for full-scale implementation.
  • We are supporting China to study its Long-Term Strategy for Decarbonization, one of the earliest 2050 reports in the country on energy and carbon emission strategy for the medium and long-term.
  • We were the first in the field to launch the concept of “strategic communications” in supporting think tanks, research institutions, key media organizations, and non-governmental organizations over promotion of issues related to sustainable energy and green development, and in facilitating broad participation of stakeholders in this area.

Casting our eyes over the horizon, we are full of passion and expectation about the future. A modern China working for the benefit of 1.4 billion people and global development has to be supported by a sustainable system of clean and low-carbon energy. The energy revolution will be accompanied by China’s journey to meet the country’s goals of achieving modernization in 2035 and building a modern power in 2050. In the next 20 to 30 years, we will bear witness and participate in China’s development of energy technology, energy structure change, energy efficiency improvement, and other comprehensive changes in the energy system. To this end, we will strive to make ourselves a practical investor with vision and strategic planning, a diligent facilitator of exchanges and cooperation between China and the international community, and an earnest advisor in the field of energy and sustainable development. Today, as China has further demonstrated its resolve to reform and open up, Energy Foundation China is more determined than ever to build on our past successes in China. We will unreservedly contribute our own experiences and insights to help the realization of a “Beautiful China.”

I have often been asked how I would describe Energy Foundation China if they are a person. My answer is that they are passionate, professional, pragmatic, and good at cooperating and learning. They are someone who would look up to the stars, full of ideals, and at the same time act out their beliefs in a down-to-earth manner. They believe that both China and the world can achieve prosperity and climate safety through continuous improvement of sustainable energy; they believe that energy is not an isolated issue, and there is a need to take a comprehensive view on energy, the environment, climate change, economic development, and other related issues. Our team and partners are working tirelessly to propose ways to significantly increase usage of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, optimize economic structure, and promote China’s green and low-carbon development, as well as world-leading air quality.

“Someday, with our sail piercing the clouds, we will mount the wind, break the waves, and traverse the vast, rolling ocean.” This quote from Li Bai, the great Tang poet, is rather fitting here at the end as all the people of Energy Foundation China will, as always, through thick and thin, seek truth and be pragmatic, gather wisdom, and work together with our partners to create a sustainable and prosperous future with climate safety for all!

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