How Sustainable is the BRI? Is China’s stance on the “Green Belt” full of Empty Promises

What China wishes to achieve:

Sustainable development zones

Earlier this year, the Chinese government approved three sustainable development zones, which will implement the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Shenzhen

Shenzhen is China’s innovation engine. This zone will integrate technologies in sewage treatment, waste utilization, ecological restoration, and artificial intelligence to solve issues from resource management to pollution.

  • Guilin

This zone will focus on innovations that tackle desertification, creating solutions that can be replicated by other regions facing the threat of encroaching deserts.

  • Taiyuan

Targeting air and water pollution, this zone will foster innovative solutions that can be replicated by regions relying on resource extraction.

Tech companies as green innovators

China’s technology giants play a vital role in sustainable development. Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba are among the world’s top 10 internet companies. Online technology – particularly e-commerce, internet banking and social media – is accelerating the pace of change.

For example, Ant Financial, a banking subsidiary of Alibaba, is a founding partner of the Green Digital Finance Alliance. This alliance aims to use digital technology to advance green finance.

Over 200 million of Ant’s users signed up to Ant Forest, an app that gamifies carbon footprint tracking. The app prompts users to cut greenhouse gas emissions in real life, demonstrating the massive potential of Fintech for supporting sustainable development. By the end of January 2017, the approach had saved 150,000 tonnes of CO2.

Lankang- Mekong Cooperation –

River Connecting South East Asia- Controversial due to the fact that the Dams being built on the river will have large environomental implications.

“China has launched an ambitious domestic program to develop a green financial system and is making green finance one of the priorities of its G20 presidency,” Al Tayer said. “As such, China was selected to launch this effective platform.” Read about Chinas involvement here:

Green Bonds:

China has found itself at the forefront of embracing green
financing tools such as Green Bonds and Climate Bonds, while it has worked at introducing guidelines for its companies to help manage environmental risks of overseas projects.As befitting such a prominent player in renewable energy, China is a leader in green bond issuances. Still in its infancy, onshore green bond issuances hit US$36 billion in 2016,
accounting for nearly 40% of global green bond issuance

Click to access 42340_ENG_BRI_Whitepaper_brochure-A4_260618_Online.pdf

China- Pakistan Cooperation: China Three Gorges Corporation, builder and operator of the world’s biggest hydroelectric power project – the Three Gorges Dam – has vowed to increase energy supplies to economies related to the Belt and Road Initiativ. CTG said it plans to invest $6 billion in countries and regions participating in the initiative in the next five years, involving more than 5 million kilowatts of new installed capacity, according to Wang Shaofeng, executive vice-president of China Three Gorges International Corporation, the overseas unit of the corporation.

“Located at an intersection of the Belt and Road Initiative, Pakistan is one of the most important investment markets for CTG,” said Zhang Hongxun, director of the operation and management department at China Three Gorges International Corp.

Conclusion: The above mentioned pacts or cooperations signal that china is moving in the green direction but we must research to what extent there is action being taken. A problem is that it may be too soon seeing as many of the cooperations or verbal promises were only established in 2018