According to Chinese state media, more than 110 countries will participate in the summit, which will include “green development” as the focus of one of three high-level forums.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Yet the BRI has faced significant criticism in its first decade for supporting the development of foreign fossil-fuel infrastructure, particularly coal-fired power stations.
However Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to end support for foreign coal power – and his country has signaled its intention to move its infrastructure initiatives towards “higher quality”, among other values. Reflecting low-carbon growth – questions remain over the direction of the BRI in its second decade.
Carbon Brief asked leading experts what impact the BRI could have on climate action in the years to come.
Energy Projects and BRI
BRI is a global infrastructure project that aims to develop trade routes between China and the rest of the world. It has been criticized for supporting the development of foreign fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly coal-fired power.
China’s role in the construction of BRI projects largely takes the form of Chinese commercial participation in project development or loans provided by Chinese financial institutions.
China’s policy banks have reduced their lending, with financing now provided by a wide range of actors from state-owned Bank of China to HSBC.
China rarely owns the assets it develops, Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port being a famous exception.
Energy and transportation infrastructure are the most common types of BRI projects. For example, to date in 2023, energy projects have made up 36 percent of BRI investments, while transportation projects account for 28 percent, according to the Green Finance and Development Center (GFDC).
According to an analysis of data compiled by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the American Enterprise Institute and the GFDC itself, the GFDC found that cumulative investment in projects across all sectors is expected to exceed US$1 trillion by August 2023.
The Council on Foreign Relations found that “between 2014 and 2017, 91 percent of energy sector loans made by six major Chinese banks to BRI countries were for fossil-fuel projects”.
China controls almost all parts of the green-energy supply chain – from critical minerals for batteries to wafer production for solar power, from the construction of wind turbines to the necessary financing. Without China’s cooperation, the green-energy transition is hardly possible.
Professor Christophe Nedopil Wang, Director, Griffith Asia Institute
However, since 2017, the Chinese government began to encourage the “greening” of the BRI. Then, in 2021, President Xi Jinping pledged that China “will not build new coal-fired power projects overseas”.
Recent BRI projects developed with the aim of reducing carbon emissions include Indonesia’s “Wush” high-speed railway, the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant in the United Arab Emirates, and Sri Lanka’s Colombo International Container Terminal (see further below).
The researchers also found that, in line with Xi’s pledge, “no new investment has been recorded in coal power plants under the BRI”, reports China Dialogue, although “loopholes” allowed some coal projects to proceed. Is.
Below, Carbon Brief asks five leading experts the same question: China has stated its intention to pivot the BRI toward low-carbon energy development. How do you think the BRI could impact climate action over the next decade?
Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Professor Kevin P Gallagher, Director Boston University Center for Global Development Policy,
As the BRI enters its second decade, China may strengthen its pivot toward low-carbon development in the global South. According to our research at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, most of China’s foreign energy finance in the early stages of the BRI was in fossil fuels in general and coal-fired power plants in particular.
Emissions from Chinese-financed power plants operating around the world now emit more than 245 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, which is almost the entire energy-related CO2 emissions from the entire country of Spain or Thailand annually.
In 2021, China announced it would not build new coal-fired power projects overseas and increased support for low-carbon development. Going forward, China could pledge to increase foreign financing for low-carbon development and adopt the Green Project Pipeline Facility to ensure alignment with these directives.
Professor Lin Boqiang, Dean China Institute for Studies in Energy PolicyXiamen University:
In some countries along the “Belt and Road”, despite the rapid growth of energy demand, the development of green energy is limited due to their relatively backward economic and technological level and lack of advanced clean-energy technology and facilities. Through the construction of renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power, China can provide technical, financial and experience support to host countries to promote the development and upgrading of their renewable energy industries.
By providing these countries with greater clean-energy supplies…China helps them reduce their dependence on traditional energy sources and promotes energy transition and green development. At the same time, some countries along the Belt and Road have problems such as unstable energy supply, energy poverty, and low energy efficiency…Cooperation to develop renewable energy projects…will help these countries improve their energy security and The belt will help promote sustainable development. road.
Yasiru Ranaraja, Founding Director Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka (bristle):
China’s commitment to shift the BRI toward low-carbon energy development will have a significant impact on climate action in the coming decade. When we delve deeper into the context of global climate efforts, we encounter a historical divide between developed and developing countries with respect to debates over climate justice and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in climate action.
While all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledge the importance of addressing climate change, approaches to climate action vary among member states. Many developing countries prioritize economic growth, poverty reduction, climate mitigation, and energy security over draconian top-down climate regulations.
China, through the BRI, has emerged as a key player in advocating a three-step approach to low-carbon development: financing, construction and operation. Under the BRI umbrella, many infrastructure projects…are dedicated to green development…For example, in Sri Lanka, the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), which is an investment development project under the BRI, opened its doors in 2014. Has adopted green technology since inception.
Prioritizing environmental sustainability, the terminal has seen significant growth in cargo volumes over the years. The transition to electric cranes has resulted in a 45 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and a 95 percent reduction in diesel consumption…In addition, more than 80 percent of the terminal’s electricity comes from solar technology. The success story of the terminal…exemplifies how commercial prosperity and environmental protection can co-exist harmoniously.
Professor Christophe Nedopil Wang, Director of Griffith Asia InstituteGriffith University:
China controls almost all parts of the green-energy supply chain – from critical minerals for batteries to wafer production for solar power, from the construction of wind turbines to the necessary financing. Without China’s cooperation, the green-energy transition is hardly possible – whether in the BRI or beyond… BRI countries, meanwhile, need to be able to attract substantial Chinese investment in green energy in their energy planning, Energy policy and electricity markets need to be reformed. This should include phasing out fossil subsidies and better use of blended finance, as well as long-term green energy PPAs (power purchase agreements) to reduce financing costs for green energy.
A big question remains over the accelerated phasing out of China-sponsored coal-fired power plants and their replacement with green energy. A recent study by the Green Finance and Development Center and Climate Smart Ventures shows significant financial benefits for Chinese sponsors of plants in Vietnam and Pakistan when retirements and replacements are accelerated.
Guo Hongyu, Deputy Director Greenovation Hub
Most BRI partner countries are developing countries whose social, economic and ecological systems are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. These further undermine their efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Building on existing guidelines on greening the BRI and a pledge to increase support for green and low-carbon energy development in developing countries, BRI cooperation will help mobilize innovative financing while scaling up climate solutions, building climate resilience and reducing climate-related risks. Can do. BRI projects and local communities in this crucial decade.
[Options to achieve this include:] First, share good practices and the synergy between renewable energy, especially distributed solar energy in rural development and poverty alleviation, air pollution control and CO2 emissions reduction, as well as green finance policies and innovative financial products among BRI partner countries. Encourage cooperation with. Second, enhance climate and nature-related environmental risk management and disclosure requirements for foreign investment. Finally, share knowledge on planning, early warning systems and assessment of climate-related risks and their impacts, to help BRI countries prepare national adaptation plans based on national circumstances and identify gaps in adaptation financing Could.