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Three steps toward green Belt and Road

2019-03-13 13:19:39 China Daily

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative will likely be the most significant development in global finance in the coming decade, as it promotes investment of trillions of dollars in infrastructure across Asia, Europe and Africa. This region includes low-income countries, as well as fast-growing economies, including Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Pakistan.

The fundamental question is whether this infrastructure will be sustainable? As the Global Commission on Economy and Climate recently noted, infrastructure underpins core economic activity and is a foundation for achieving inclusive and sustainable growth. It is indispensable for reducing poverty, as it enhances access to basic services, healthcare, education and work opportunities, and can boost human capital and quality of life.

It also has a profound impact on addressing climate change, with the existing stock and use of infrastructure associated with more than 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The direction of Belt and Road investment is therefore exceedingly important, as choices made today will lock in either a climate-smart, inclusive-growth pathway or a high-carbon, inefficient and unsustainable pathway.

Progress toward sustainability

China recognized the importance of an inclusive and sustainable BRI at the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017 with President Xi Jinping stating: "We should pursue the new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable."

However, the flow of Chinese investments so far has not always matched this ideal, because countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative often have requested financial and technical support for conventional infrastructure projects.

My colleagues at the World Resources Institute looked at Chinese energy and transportation investments in BRI countries between 2014 to 2017 and found those sectors did not show strong alignment with the low-carbon priorities included in these governments' national climate plans. Indeed, most of these investments were used to finance fossil-fuel related projects in BRI countries.