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ClientEarth Communications

17th December 2019

EU China Environment Project

How can we make China’s Belt and Road Initiative sustainable? Launching the Green Light System

In December, ClientEarth co-hosted The Inception Meeting for Joint Research on “Green Development Guidance for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Projects”, also known as the “Green Light System” in Beijing with the BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC) and the World Resource Institute (WRI).

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an development strategy that aims to connect Asia with Africa and Europe, with infrastructure development and investments in more than 130 countries. Due to its scale and potential climate impact, stakeholders from China and abroad agree on the need to urgently make the BRI sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

In his speeches, President Xi Jinping has expressed a desire to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, which will be open, green and clean. It is therefore a priority to develop over-arching guidance, policies and measures to align BRI cooperation with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 biodiversity targets.

The bulk of financing for these projects will be provided by a small number of large financial institutions. As such, one of the most effective opportunities for greening the BRI will be to change the direction of the financial flows, away from investments which may harm the environment or the climate, towards environmentally-friendly and climate-friendly investments.

In April 2019, China’s Ministry of Ecology and the Environment launched the BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC), a platform for international cooperation to promote green development of the BRI. Under the coalition there are ten partner theme groups, covering a range of topics including green finance, climate change, biodiversity, energy, infrastructure, laws and standards. ClientEarth is a lead partner in the theme group on environmental laws, regulations and standards.

In June 2019, the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie proposed research into a ‘Green Light’ system for BRI projects. It is hoped the system will provide guidance and procedures for assessment and classification of BRI projects, as well as specifying levels of environmental information disclosure and public participation mechanisms, to support decision making.

The inception meeting in December, co-hosted by ClientEarth, brought together around 50 stakeholders, including leaders of Chinese, Pakistani and multilateral banks, Chinese government officials, Chinese and international academia, multilateral organisations and NGOs. At the meeting, stakeholders agreed overarching principles for the study – including a need for the research to be deeply rooted in China, to follow international best practice and to address the big challenges.

The joint study will be conducted by the World Resource Institute, ClientEarth, and Chinese government research institutes, and will build upon existing research. Initial recommendations will be presented at the BIRGC Green Policy Dialogue Meeting in May 2020, and final results will be presented by May 2021.

Learn more about our work in China