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5 Jan 2021

Gao Baiyu, China Dialogue

Former UNEP chief Erik Solheim says China should phase out coal and extend strict domestic standards to its overseas investments

"Erik Solheim: China should apply stricter standards along the Belt and Road" 5 January 2021

Erik Solheim, senior advisor of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and former chief of UNEP, spent a good part of December 2020 in China, where he attended the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Initiative Green Development Institute and toured Zhejiang and Shenzhen to take the pulse of low-carbon development at the local level. [...]

China Dialogue (CD): Why are you advocating for a green Belt and Road Initiative?

Erik Solheim (ES): Because this is by far the biggest investment initiative in our era. Today there is too much focus on coal investment in the BRI. But if you change the focus to wind, solar and other types of renewable energy, then the BRI has an enormous potential for a positive green contribution to the world.

China is the biggest producer of green energy, and technologies such as electric buses, batteries and high-speed trains. Many Chinese technologies can be spread to other countries along the Belt and Road, as well as best practices for environmental protection, such as the river chief system in Zhejiang, and anti-desertification measures in Inner Mongolia.

Also, the BRI is not just about China’s experience. We can share the experiences from other nations, such as Singapore’s green practices, along the Belt and Road.


How should China better link its 2060 carbon-neutrality target with the BRI?

China has applied strict standards to investment in many domestic areas and it should do the same for overseas investments.

For example, if you look 10 years back here in Beijing, the air was polluted and absolutely horrible. But now the situation is vastly better thanks to great efforts from the Chinese government and the municipal authorities of Beijing. The strict standards that have been set for clean air in China should also be duplicated for investments in Belt and Road countries.


Part of the following timelines

China’s 2060 carbon neutrality pledge

China's commitment to phase out overseas coal investment