Is the Fastest-Growing Economy in the World Sustainable?

China is the world's fastest-growing economy — and the most coal dependent. In 2006, China became the world's leading CO2 emitter, surpassing even the United States in dirty emissions. China's contribution to global climate change is undeniably substantial, as are the other side effects of its growing economy: smog-covered cities, polluted waters, and health issues, to name just a few. Fortunately, there are plenty of people interested in investing in a greener China, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has supported several relevant grants over the past few years. (See Hewlett Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.)

Much of the Hewlett Foundation's funds go to re-granting institutions such as ClimateWorks or the Energy Foundation. Both of these institutions focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy in general and in China in particular, with the goal of informing national policy and implementation within the country. ClimateWorks often partners with the Energy Foundation's China Sustainable Energy Program, which provides expertise to the nation's policymakers and energy professionals. The program focuses on a variety of energy-related issues, including renewables, transportation, utilities, energy efficient buildings, and sustainable cities.

Although the Hewlett Foundation invests much of its funds through these larger re-granting institutions, smaller projects can and do receive funding. In 2013, the World Resources Institute received a $72,000 grant for a China clean energy study. In 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Fund received $250,000 for the China Coal Cap Project, a plan to help China reduce its reliance on coal. In 2009, the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation received $300,000 to create a greenhouse-gas registry for China. (See Program Director Tom Stenbach's IP profile.)

Grantseekers looking to fund projects related to China's coal problem — or any of its other climate change issues — need not be daunted by the Hewlett Foundation's commitment to its main re-granting institutions. It is possible to get direct funding for smaller projects in certain situations. Hewlett notes that while its Energy and Climate grantmaking is global, its clean transportation grants tend to be focused on places like China. The country's environmental problems are not likely to be solved immediately, meaning such funding will be much needed going forward.