With more than 1.3 billion people, China has the largest population of any country in the world. It also produces more greenhouse gases than any other country, making its environmental reform important to the health of the entire planet.

On Wednesday, China’s State Council announced new plans to cut emissions and reach its target of 16 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2015. The government will spend $372 billion on conservation projects and anti-pollution laws in the next three years, hoping to cut the equivalent of the 670 million tons of standard coal from the country’s energy usage.

Through a combination of investing in new projects and imposing regulations on current energy producers, the Chinese government is taking measures that would likely meet widespread protest if enacted in the United States. It will require steel producers to reduce energy use by 25 percent over the next five years, coal-fired plants by 8 percent and cement manufacturers by 3 percent.

This is not the first effort the country has made to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. It has long recognized the need to build its energy security, and over the past few years has phased out thousands of fossil-fuel powered plants.

For those who believe that environmental stewardship and economic growth are mutually exclusive, the news from China proves that theory wrong yet again: Bloomberg Businessweek reported the announcement spurred a “surge in shares of environmental protection companies.” Wei Wei, an analyst at West China Securities Company echoed the sentiment, saying, “Stocks in the sector will do well in a scenario where most industries are slowing down.”

Main photo credit: Shutterstock