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26 Mai 2022

Dimitri De Boer, Christoph Nedopil, Fan Danting, China Dialogue,
龙迪, 王珂礼, 范丹婷 - 中外对话

China's Belt and Road must align with Paris Agreement, government guidance says

"Belt and Road must align with Paris Agreement – government guidance" 3 May 2022

On 28 March, China published a policy document on further greening the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is the third policy document on this theme issued by the government in less than a year, so one can be excused for finding it difficult to keep up.

The new document – “Opinions on Jointly Promoting Green Development of the Belt and Road” – was jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, and the ministries of foreign affairs, ecology and environment, and commerce.

To us, three things stand out and go beyond the two previous documents, issued in July 2021 and January 2022:

  • The BRI must be Paris aligned, and China will “facilitate the full implementation of the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement among all parties”, particularly by supporting the energy transition and green transport.
  • The environmental performance of Chinese companies should be “regulated”, with reference made to codes of conduct issued by industry associations, which may be combined with regulations issued by government.
  • A timeline says a green BRI should be “basically formed” by 2030, while by 2025 environmental risk prevention of BRI projects will significantly improve.

The language on Paris alignment and green energy systems is particularly important. In our understanding, it means projects in the BRI should be selected and designed such that they are consistent with keeping warming of our planet well under 2C by the end of this century. [...]

Building on previous policy documents on greening the BRI, the Opinions re-emphasise the need to strictly follow host country laws on environmental protection. However, contrary to the 2017 Opinions and in line with the 2021 and 2022 Guidelines, it also encourages enterprises to follow international or higher Chinese environmental standards, such as for project environmental-risk management. Relevant industry associations are expected to create codes of conduct for protecting the environment in enterprises’ overseas investments.

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are another highlight, required at the project level. Article 18 asks to identify environmental risks and perform EIAs before initiating construction. This is clearly in line with the Green Development Guidance for BRI Projects, initiated by the BRIGC in 2020, which includes the traffic-light system mentioned above. [...]