China prioritizes a 'Green Belt and Road'

Updated 2017-05-11 09:00:55 Global Times

China will ensure B&R development is sustainable

The Chinese government has ordered enterprises and institutions involved in the One Belt and One Road initiative to practice environmental protection in foreign countries to ensure an eco-friendly and green Belt and Road.[Special coverage]

Four ministries - including the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Foreign Affairs - jointly released a document titled "Guidance to Promote the Construction of a Green Belt and Road," according to the State Council website.

This demonstrates that China highly values environmental protection when it comes to Belt and Road projects and that China intends to avoid a repetition of the environmental damage done during its own industrialization and urbanization, experts said.

"Many countries along the Belt and Road care about environmental protection when China discusses infrastructure projects with them," said Liang Haiming, chief economist of the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, a Guangzhou-based think tank.

"Making a 'Green Belt and Road' is crucial for the whole initiative to avoid pollution while improving the industrialization and urbanization [of these nations]," Liang said.

The document states that China should take three to five years to build an efficient environmental protection communication system with Belt and Road countries and establish a series of risk prevention regulations.

"A comprehensive eco-environmental protection system and a series of eco-environmental protection programs should be established in five to 10 years," the document said.

According to World Bank data, CO2 emissions from 64 Belt and Road countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, excluding China, have increased rapidly since 2001, and accounted for 56.1 percent of global CO2 emissions in 2016. China alone accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions.

The international community agrees on carbon emissions reduction, and China has signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, so China will take action to control emissions growth, Liang said.

But Belt and Road countries have different priorities on economic growth and environmental protection as they are at different stages of development, Liang said. "Some consider that protecting the environment is more important than boosting the economy, but others are still at the stage of fast economic growth, so governments don't want to sacrifice the economy too much for the environment."

Fragile environments

Some Belt and Road countries have fragile natural environments, especially those surrounded by mountains and deserts, so they treat the environment very seriously, said Fu Jingyan, the vice director of the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainable Development Research at the Guangzhou-based Jinan University.

Some Chinese enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, are insensitive to environmental protection, so they caused pollution in their partners' countries and provoked opposition from local residents, Fu said.

But China has learned lessons from its own experience of industrialization, and will not repeat these mistakes in its partners' territories.

China will ensure the development is sustainable, Wang Yiwei, senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

Chinese enterprises should always bear in mind that environmental protection is essential for every project overseas, otherwise locals will resist, Wang said.

"We hope our partners can understand that some Chinese companies, who brought pollution to the locals, don't represent China's position and attitude on the environmental protection issue," Wang added.

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