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Green chemistry and green engineering in China: drivers, policies and barriers to innovation

Matus, Kira J.M., Xiao, Xin, Zimmerman, Julie B.
Journal of cleaner production 2012 v.32 pp. 193-203
business enterprises, energy efficiency, engineering, environmental protection, green chemistry, human capital, issues and policy, labor force, pollution, research support, sustainable development, sustainable engineering, China
With the world’s largest population and consistently rapid rates of economic growth, China faces a choice of whether it will move towards a more sustainable development trajectory. This paper identifies the different factors driving innovation in the fields of green chemistry and green engineering in China, which we find to be largely driven by energy efficiency policy, increasingly strict enforcement of pollution regulations, and national attention to cleaner production concepts, such as “circular economy.” We also identify seven key barriers to the development and implementation of green chemistry and engineering in China. They are (1) competition between economic growth and environmental agendas, (2) regulatory and bureaucratic barriers, (3) availability of research funding, (4) technical barriers, (5) workforce training, (6) industrial engineering capacity, and (7) economic and financial barriers. Our analysis reveals that the most crucial barriers to green chemistry and engineering innovations in China appear to be those that arise from competing priorities of economic growth and environmental protection as well as the technical challenges that arise from possessing a smaller base of experienced human capital. We find that there is a great deal of potential for both the development of the underlying science, as well as its implementation throughout the chemical enterprise, especially if investment occurs before problems of technological lock-in and sunk costs emerge.