Projected emissions from Belt & Road investments set to fall behind Paris Agreement targets, report finds

Author: Lili Pike, China Dialogue, Published on: 16 September 2019

“Belt and Road countries will make or break the Paris Agreement”, 10 September 2019

Developing countries are forecast to emit more carbon dioxide than developed ones by mid-century. Chinese investment is projected to speed up that process in key countries linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)… according to a new report.

The study, authored by researchers at Tsinghua University, Vivid Economics, and ClimateWorks Foundation, provides the first model of how carbon emissions will grow for BRI countries, and incorporates the effect of Chinese investment.

By 2050, the annual emissions of the BRI countries studied will far exceed the target levels for complying with the Paris climate agreement to keep global warming below 2C, they find…

For the greater group of 126 countries signed onto the BRI, emissions are projected to grow from 28% in 2015 to 66% in 2050. If they follow the most carbon-intensive growth paths in history, these countries could bring about 2.7C of warming even if the rest of the world meets the 2C target…

… Though the study does not attribute a certain percentage of emissions growth to those investments, it does imply they will play a role in the countries’ emissions increases…

The nature of BRI investments means they will also have an outsize effect on emissions, according to the report. Roads, power plants and other major power and transportation infrastructure projects make up the bulk of them, and these projects are carbon-intensive by nature…

For power sector investments, the report explicitly states that Chinese investments – dominated by coal power – are not aligned with a 2C path, but rather are set to follow a “business as usual” path…

If a 2C path is to be realised, the report identifies a green investment gap totalling nearly US$12 trillion across Belt and Road countries by 2030.

The authors argue that systematic green finance policies will be essential due to the unprecedented emissions reductions required… The authors argue that China should “extend [its] green requirements to its investment in the Belt and Road Initiative​”…

Yan Wang, a Greenpeace campaigner… said… “Solutions include a clear-cut ‘no’ to overseas coal plants (especially those with high environmental, social concerns and low financial viability), alternatively switching to renewables and cultivating the market.”…

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