14 September 2021
Officially adopted by the Chinese government in 2013, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest infrastructure development strategy. It is massive in scale, covering over 60 countries and including projects worth an estimated 448 billion USD between 2014 and 2018.
While the BRI represents a chance for many developing countries to fund much-needed roads, ports and transport infrastructure, there are many concerns about the potential environmental impact. The construction of coal plants and hydroelectric dams as part of the BRI are points of particular concern.
These risks have been acknowledged by the Chinese authorities, and efforts are now being made to create safeguards and environmental standards for Chinese infrastructural investments abroad.
ClientEarth’s China program has long worked alongside the Chinese government to aid these efforts, and we are currently an implementing partner in the “Harmonisation and Capacity Building for Green Finance in Belt and Road Investments” project. This project works with Chinese financial institutions that invest in the BRI countries to make the BRI more sustainable. It is funded by the UK Partnership for Accelerated Carbon Transition (UK PACT), a capacity-building programme created by the UK Government to support countries around the world to accelerate their climate change mitigation efforts.
As part of this project, a symposium for financial institutions involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was held in Beijing in late August, co-organised by the BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC), the Beijing Institute of Finance and Sustainability (BIFS) and ClientEarth. The event was attended by representatives of the largest financial institutions involved in the BRI.
The interactive event was focused on harmonizing two complementary frameworks created to promote green investment in the BRI: the Green Development Guidance for BRI projects, established by the BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC) in 2019 to provide a way of measuring the environmental sustainability of BRI projects; and the BRI Green Investment Principles, established in 2018 and already counting 40 signatories in 14 different countries.
The event was attended and addressed by a stellar panel, including Mr. Erik Solheim, Convener of the BRIGC Advisory Committee and Senior Advisor of the World Resources Institute (WRI); Mr. Ma Jun, Advisor of the BRIGC Advisory Committee, Chairman of the Green Finance Committee (GFC) of China Society of Finance and Banking and President of IFS; and Mr. Li Yonghong, Deputy Director General of the Foreign Environmental Cooperation Center (FECO) of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).
The symposium also attracted more than 40 representatives from around 20 Chinese and international institutions, including the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC), the Belt and Road Innovation and Development Center at the China Development Bank, the Belt and Road Financial Research Institute at the Export-Import Bank of China, the Bank of China, the China International Capital Corporation (CICC), PICC Reinsurance Co., Ltd., Fudan University, UK Pact, WRI, the Climate Bonds Initiative and the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The symposium, held in the offices of the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, opened with presentations on the current working progress of the Green Development Guidance for BRI Projects and of the Green Investment Principles, given respectively by Mr. Zhu Yuan, an associate researcher of the BRIGC secretariat, and Mr. Cheng Lin from BIFS. The presentations were followed by a panel debate on the challenges of greening the BRI, and a second panel on how to harmonize and synergize the green development instruments and standards for BRI projects.
This meeting was the second in a series of events held as part of the “Harmonisation and Capacity Building for Green Finance in Belt and Road Investments” project. The first event, a training on environmental risks for financial institutions involved in the BRI, was held in June in Beijing.