With the world’s most important global climate summit (COP26) just around the corner, all eyes are on China—the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the largest investor in renewable energy technologies. 

There is no pathway to achieve the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement without changing how we produce protein, but encouraging new evidence suggests that Chinese leaders understand the massive benefits of making meat from plants and growing it directly from cells. 

To unpack that conclusion, we just need to dig a bit below the surface …

Government Funds Allocated to Accelerate Alt Proteins

Public Chinese government records reviewed by GFI APAC indicate that significant funds are being allocated to help the nascent alternative protein sector optimize and scale up—just as China has previously done for the development of solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, and electric vehicles. Among the notable recent investments: 

3D meat printer, China Meat Food Research Center

While Chinese funding for alternative protein remains a tiny drop in the bucket of what the nation is capable of, these moves by various government entities demonstrate the scope of interest among local officials, which has the potential to position China at the forefront of the next big tech boom. 

Chinese Investors See the Writing on the Wall

While analyzing China’s governmental priorities requires reading some tea leaves, Chinese investors and startups have been much more outspoken: 

With an increasingly robust local entrepreneurial atmosphere, combined with the government’s financial support for sustainable food production, momentum is on the rise industry-wide.

Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity for China

Conventional protein production systems, led by the livestock sector, are the single largest anthropogenic use of land and driver of deforestation. By contrast, cultivated meat could use 95 percent less land than conventional beef by 2030, and innovative plant-based meat products already on the market use up to 99 percent less. In a fast-growing nation like China, where available arable land is dwindling, that shift could have a massive impact, making room for increased domestic production of renewable energy, enhancing food security, and providing stronger protection of the nation’s biodiversity.

Cultivated fish maw in potato croquettes, from Hong Kong-based Avant Meats

With the world teetering dangerously close to ecological catastrophe, and global energy crises causing many nations to hesitate on their climate pledges, it’s more important than ever that the emissions mitigation benefits of alternative proteins be fully realized. That necessity, in turn, also presents an unprecedented economic opportunity for countries that lead the way. 

The Inside Scoop

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