Green Development Policies

The Chinese government identifies green development as a goal of the Belt and Road Initiative. Speaking at the First Belt and Road Summit in May 2017, President Xi Jinping said:

We should pursue the new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable…We propose the establishment of an international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road, and we will provide support to related countries in adapting to climate change.[7]

President Xi reiterated those themes in his opening speech at the Second Belt and Road Forum in April 2019, emphasizing the importance of “green and clean cooperation” and highlighting several green development programs under the BRI. The joint communique adopted by the dozens of leaders attending the Second Belt and Road Summit says: “We underline the importance of promoting green development and addressing the challenges of environmental protection and climate change including by enhancing our cooperation to implement the Paris Agreement.”[8]

Many green development initiatives were announced at the Second Belt and Road Summit.

  • The BRI International Green Development Coalition was launched by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and more than 130 partners, including environment ministries, international organizations and NGOs. According to UNEP, the Coalition will help countries that receive Belt and Road investments “establish the enabling conditions to ensure that the investments are environmentally sustainable.”[9]
  • The Belt and Road Green Cooling Initiative was launched by NDRC, several United Nations agencies and Energy Foundation. The Initiative will promote deployment of energy efficient technologies in the cooling and air conditioning industries with policy dialogues, information exchanges and capacity building programs.[10]
  • The Belt and Road Green Lighting Initiative was launched by NDRC and several UN agencies. The Initiative will promote deployment of energy lighting technologies, also with policy dialogues, information exchanges and capacity building programs.[11]
  • The BRI Environmental Big Data Platform will provide information on environmental laws, regulations, standards, policies and technologies in Belt and Road countries. Its five subplatforms include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Environmental Information Sharing Platform.[12]
  • Twenty-seven financial institutions from around the world adopted the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road Development, first released in December 2018. Signers included major Chinese financial institutions that invest abroad, including China Development Bank, the Export-Import Bank of China, Agricultural Development Bank of China, China International Capital Corporation and Silk Road Fund.[13]

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The Chinese government’s policies with respect to green development under the Belt and Road Initiative are set forth in the Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road, issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in May 2017.[14] The document highlights the importance of “ecological civilization and green development.” It says:

We will encourage enterprises to prioritize low-carbon, energy-saving, environment-friendly and green materials and technical processes…We will also guide the businesses to tighten their R&D efforts on key technologies to address climate change.

The Guidance calls on companies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to

  • “promote environmental infrastructure construction and improve green and low-carbon construction and operation,” and
  • “observe…the laws, regulations, policies and standards of host countries on eco-environment protection, [and] attach great importance to the appeals of the local residents on environment protection.”

The Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road builds on the Guidelines on Environmental Protection in Overseas Investment and Cooperation, issued by MEP and MOFCOM in 2013.  The earlier guidelines encourage Chinese companies investing abroad “to identify and preempt environmental risks in a timely manner.”[15]

Neither the Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road nor Guidelines on Environmental Protection in Overseas Investment and Cooperation contain implementation or enforcement mechanisms. NDRC and MOFCOM, which are responsible for approving many overseas projects under the BRI, have limited experience evaluating the potential climate change impacts of projects. The Chinese government does not require the evaluation of climate change impacts or environmental impacts more broadly in connection with BRI projects.[16]

References

[7] Xi Jinping, “Speech at Opening of Belt and Road Forum,“ Global Times (May 14, 2017),.

[8] “Xi tells summit that China's 'Belt and Road' initiative must be green and sustainable,” Reuters/Japan Times (April 26, 2019); “Xi Jinping Chairs and Addresses the Leaders' Roundtable,” Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation website (accessed August 7, 2019); Joint Communique of the Leaders' Roundtable of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China (April 27, 2019).

[9] Hou Liqiang, “China officially launches green development coalition under BRI,” China Daily (April 25, 2019); “Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition,” UNEP website (accessed August 7, 2019). See also “China promotes green development along Belt and Road,” Xinhua (May 4, 2019) .

[10] “Stakeholders Join Hands to Boost Cooling Efficiency in BRI Countries,” EF China News (April 28, 2019); Hu Min and Diego Montero, “Leveraging China's ‘Green Soft Power’ For Responsible Belt and Road Initiative Investment,” Forbes (May 14, 2019); “Belt and Road forum builds consensus on green, sustainable development,” China Daily (April 27, 2019).

[11] “The Belt and Road Green Lighting initiative (BRGLI) was Officially Launched,” International Solid State Lighting website (April 25, 2019) (accessed August 8, 2019); Catherine Benson Wahlén, “Second Belt and Road Forum Results in Over 283 Deliverables,” IISD/SDG Knowledge Hub (May 2, 2019).

[12] Hou Liqiang, “China officially launches green development coalition under BRI,” China Daily (April 25, 2019); Hou Liqiang, “Online tools will allow sharing on environment,” China Daily (June 15, 2019).

[13] “Green Belt and Road principles receive industry backing,” People’s Daily (April 26, 2019); “Twenty-seven Global Institutions Sign up to Green Investment Principles for the Belt & Road,” Hong Kong Trade Development Council (May 3, 2019)

[14] NDRC, MEP, MOFCOM and MFA, Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road (May 8, 2017) (Chinese); NDRC, MEP, MOFCOM and MFA, Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road (May 8, 2017) (English)

[15] Kelly Sims Gallagher and Qi Qi, “Policies Governing China’s Overseas Development Finance: Implications for Climate Change,” The Fletcher School, Tufts University (March 2018) at p.18.

[16] Kelly Sims Gallagher and Qi Qi, “Policies Governing China’s Overseas Development Finance: Implications for Climate Change,” The Fletcher School, Tufts University (March 2018) at pp.18-19; Jonathan Elkind, “Toward a Real Green Belt and Road,” Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy (April 25, 2019).

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