China’s BRI – new global green investment

The immense regional as well global popularity of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has now rattled the policy makers sitting in the Washington DC and Brussels to start their own impromptu so-called global mega projects of development.

The so-called the Build Back Better World (B3W) with the commitment to invest up to $40 trillion and EU sponsored the Global Gateway Strategy (GGS) with 300 billion Euros.

Both global financial players termed their versions of BRI as inclusive, transparent, open and last but not the least, development-oriented with no secret conditions. Both claimed to announce their mega projects to plug the infrastructure gaps in low and middle income countries exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. Thus intentionally started a new game of “snake and ladder” to distract countries to leave Chinese BRI.

Contrary to this, due to rapidly changing socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic propositions and partnerships President Xi Jinping announced the Chinese BRI for international development, greater connectivity, trade & commerce activities and sustainable cooperation eight years ago.

Since then, a total of 172 countries and international organizations have signed over 200 cooperation agreements with China on the joint construction of the project. In this connection, the latest data (December 2021) shows that cumulative trade between China and its BRI partners has exceeded $9.2 trillion and its private direct investment in member countries along the route exceeded $130 billion. It vividly reflects the Chinese BRI’s universal reach, potential of economic simulation and persuasion of green energy in the member countries.

Construction of the BRI Laos high speed railway.

Since it was first proposed in 2013, China’s BRI has gradually transformed. Initially, it was meant to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks. Its primary goals are regional integration and stimulating trade and economic growth.

Now China’s green action initiatives encourage green infrastructure, energy, transportation and finance under the BRI framework. It will contribute to the global fight against climate change. It is really important that the world powers have already changed their national policies, but their international commitment towards green investments and finances are still not serious. However, Chinese BRI has been on the forefront since its inception

Chinese BRI green energy, investments and finances are the “paradigm shift” which aims at building a series of infrastructure projects from Asia to Europe. The eco-friendly policies and projects of Green BRI have attracted more than 100 other countries that are getting new infrastructure from the Asian economic powerhouse in exchange for expanding trade.

Now the Chinese government is preparing a new road-map for Green BRI that will focus on greener projects, instead of pollution-generating coal-fired plants. Ultimately, the BRI 2.0 was announced in China on October 18, coinciding with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

China’s policy shift towards a greener BRI reflects China’s own commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060 and its efforts to implement a green transition within China’s domestic economy. Furthermore, China’s policy shift also reflects the increasing policy priority being given towards renewable energy and sustainable development policies by most of China’s BRI partner countries.

Resultantly, Green BRI also unnerves China’s superpower rival, the United States, which has no comparable program but mere announcement of future programs like B3W.

It seems that Chinese Green BRI is not limited to any singular aspect of trade, logistics, and infrastructure but encompasses digital connectivity, healthcare systems and green goals through technology, capacity building investment and sharing information. It is composite, comprehensive and holistic.

Hopefully, it will facilitate both Chinese companies and BRI participants to innovate, sell, install and operate telecom infrastructure; invest in healthcare programs, medical assistance and medical supply chains as well as promote and develop resource efficiency and renewable technologies within logistics infrastructure.

The ‘digital silk road’ (DSR) covers all things digital along the virtual path of BRI: digital economy, e-commerce, IT infrastructure, smart cities and more.

Greening of the BRI projects will contribute to the UN Environment Program’s (UNEP) Medium-Term Strategy that looks at resource efficiency, climate change, healthy and productive ecosystems, environmental governance, etc. These ultimately tie into several of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which acts as a road-map to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Previously, at the COP15 Summit in October, President Xi Jinping, showcased the concept of “ecological civilization” which highlights the mainstreaming of biodiversity across all decision-making and increasing financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing countries, among others. In this connection, prior to the COP26 summit, China released a comprehensive action plan for reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and the country’s plans to control carbon growth in vast areas of its economy.

The Green BRI objectively pledges investment opportunities in shipping, healthcare, clean energy, water and waste management, sustainable city infrastructure as well electrified railway connectivity.

To conclude, the Chinese government has rightly decided not to invest or build any more coal-fired power stations overseas and thus started a new innovative and integrative concept of Green BRI. It would be beneficial to reduce looming threats of climate change in all the member countries of the BRI in the days to come. It is in line with Glasgow COP26 and the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26). To further strengthen the concept of Green BRI 57% of China’s investment in BRI partner countries went to renewable energy projects during 2020-2021 up from 38% in 2019.

Many international reports have appreciated Chinese sincere efforts to develop green technology in its own country and rest of the BRI member countries alike. According to official statistics (2020) China has become the world’s largest market for renewable energy with renewable power accounting for 29.5% of overall electricity consumption.

Additionally, it is also the world’s biggest manufacturer of renewable energy equipment, ranking first in installed capacity of hydroelectric, wind and solar power generation and has the largest nuclear power generating projects under construction, thus strategic importance of the BRI is obvious.

Surprisingly, the developed countries, mainly the US and EU, have failed to deliver their promise of US$100 billion a year to help lower income nations by 2020, among other pledges, to tackle climate change. But China has been playing a leading role in this regard and its newly announced version of Green BRI will further consolidate its global status in the days to come.

Chinese BRI has been fighting non-traditional security threats in terms of climate change, deterioration of bio-diversity and deforestation through integrative mechanisms of various green energy projects in all the member countries since 2013. Whereas, US B3W has not yet been implemented in real sense and EU GGS are still in its premature birth web and resultantly both are not in a position to compete with Chinese BRI. However, false, fake and fictional dissemination of propaganda has been making headlines in the Western media but actually miserably failed to distract the countries from joining the Chinese BRI.

SOURCE: Pakistan Observer, December 15, 2021.

Author: Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan