China’s pivot to a greener and more sustainable Belt and Road Initiative will help tackle global climate change challenges, according to a report published by the State Council. 

The report, ‘Responding to Climate Change’, highlights Chinese accomplishments on pollution controls, the move away from coal, CO2 reductions and building a ‘Belt and Road South-South Cooperation Initiative’ designed specifically to tackle climate change and slow down the warming of the planet. 

China also plans to create a Belt and Road Energy Partnership. The State Council release states that “China is working with relevant countries…” to “facilitate actions on ecological conservation and climate change.” 

The various offshoots from the original Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has itself undergone some fundamental ‘greening’, will all come under the sustainability principles enshrined in the 2021 partnership for green development. 

The report adds: “In 2021, China and 28 other countries launched the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development, advocating that climate change can be addressed through actions guided by the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, weighted against different national circumstances.” 

The full report, published just days before the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, gives an insight into the efforts being undertaken across China to cut emissions, move away from coal and begin using sustainable technology in everything from city planning to protecting biodiversity. 

“China offers its approach to global climate governance through building a green silk road. China aims to promote green development and is working with relevant partners to build a green silk road. It emphasises the importance of an active response to the challenges of climate change and calls for closer results-oriented cooperation in implementing the Paris Agreement and in other areas.  

“As of the end of 2020, China’s balance of green loans amounted to RMB11.95 trillion ($1.9 trillion), of which the clean energy loan balance was RMB3.2 trillion ($500 billion). China has issued a total of about RMB1.2 trillion of green bonds ($188 billion), with roughly RMB800 billion ($125 billion) outstanding, making it the world’s second-biggest green bond market.” 

Carbon intensity 

Between 2005 and 2020, China claims to have almost halved its carbon intensity rates. Carbon intensity measures the amount of CO2 released by creating energy via coal. 

“China’s carbon intensity in 2020 was 18.8 percent lower than that in 2015, a better result than the binding target set in the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-2020). The figure was also 48.4 percent less than that in 2005, which means that China had more than fulfilled its commitment to the international community – to achieve a 40-45 percent reduction in carbon intensity from the 2005 level by 2020.” 

Non-fossil energy contributed 15.9 percent to China’s total energy consumption in 2020, a significant increase of 8.5 percentage points compared with 2005. The total installed capacity of non-fossil energy power generation in China reached 980 million kW, accounting for 44.7 percent of total installed capacity, according to the report. 

Of that, wind represented 280 million kW, PV 250 million kW, hydro 370 million kW, biomass 29.52 million kW, and nuclear power 49.89 million kW. Electricity generated by non-fossil energy represented more than one third of the power consumption of the country. 

The reports gives some indication of how serious China is about transitioning. The State Council report adds: “Climate change is a challenge for all of humanity. The sustainable development of the Chinese nation and the future of the planet depend on tackling it successfully.” 

In 2013, President Xi Jinping unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Some 141 countries and 32 international organisations, including 19 UN agencies, have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China.  

In mid-October, at a conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Xi delivered a keynote speech. He announced four key pillars: developing ecological civilization as a guide to coordinate the relationship between man and nature; letting green transition drive efforts to facilitate global sustainable development; concentrating on bettering people's well-being; and taking international law as the basis to uphold a fair international governance system.  

“In this new development stage, China pursues a philosophy that development must be innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared, and accelerates the pace in creating a new development dynamic. 

“In meeting the climate challenge, no one can isolate themselves and unilateralism will get us nowhere. Only by upholding multilateralism, unity and cooperation can we deliver shared benefits for all nations.” 

(Writing by Charles Lavery; Editing by Anoop Menon) 


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