Immelt: GE to 'Double Down' on Clean Energy in China

Jun 18, 2013 11:30 AM ET

The problem is clear. With China's urban population growing and its citizens consuming and driving more, the nation's already poor air quality will get even worse if nothing is done. That was one of the main themes during "Building a Sustainable Future," a session of the  Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu where three of the world's top CEOs put their heads together today to parse this problem.

Fu Chengyu, chairman of the Chinese oil, gas, and chemical giant Sinopec (SHI), believes that while renewables like solar and wind are important, at least in the short term, they will play a minor role in solving China's air quality problem. He says that China can gain much more by pursuing energy efficiency. "We consume three times more energy than Europe per dollar of GDP," he says. "We need great technological innovation to solve our energy efficiency challenges. We can cut our energy needs by two-thirds through efficiency."

The challenge is daunting. Fu said that if China follows the historical path of industrial development, it will eventually exhaust the world's supply of energy. So what can drive change? General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, Dupont CEO Ellen Kullman, and Fu all agreed that China needs tougher environmental standards and ones that are enforced. Already, Fu says, the Chinese government is working on ways to cut emissions from coal plants and to raise environmental standards to Euro 4 and Euro 5 levels. Another thing he says will help: Beijing is already moving away from energy subsidies toward free-market pricing, which would encourage more foreign corporations to bring clean tech to China.

Read more about GE's commitment to clean energy in China at Fortune.