China promotes ‘green’ belt and road
29 April 2019 | Mitigation
China launched an “international green development coalition” last week, in the face of growing concern about its coal investments.
The Environment Ministry hosted an event on the “green belt and road” as part of a leaders’ summit in Beijing to promote Chinese investment in partner countries.
According to the official progress report on President Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign policy: “The Belt and Road Initiative pursues the vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable.
“The initiative is committed to strengthening cooperation on environmental protection and defusing environmental risks.”
However, China’s energy investments abroad – it is a major investment and aid donor in the Pacific – continue to favour coal, threatening to blow the global carbon budget.
More than 30 heads of state were due at the summit, including from countries with shared coal, oil and gas interests such as Russia, Indonesia and Pakistan.
In a press conference before travelling to join them, UN chief Antonio Guterres said greening the initiative was important to meeting international climate goals.
“We need a lot of investments in sustainable development, in renewable energy, and a lot of investments in infrastructure that respect the future,” he said, as reported by Xinhua.
Test for China
The test is whether China will require its belt and road projects to meet international standards, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, said Greenpeace China climate analyst Li Shuo.
“China is certainly becoming more conscious about the criticisms around president Xi’s diplomatic initiative, particularly the environmental impacts of some of the Chinese projects,” said Li.
“Now comes the hard part – will any substantive progress be made at the policy level?”
China is financing 102 gigawatts of coal power capacity outside the country, 26 percent of the total under development, according to green think tank the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
It has become the “lender of last resort” for projects Western banks deem too risky.
Investment in renewables grew in 2018, US-based campaign group NDRC noted, but was still dwarfed by support for fossil fuels.
“There is a huge potential for renewable energy in these partner countries, but then they don’t have great policy set-ups for renewables,” NRDC energy policy expert Han Chen said.
Source: Asia Pacific Report