Beijing charts a green footprint along the Belt and Road

Guo Yiming
May 15, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. [Xinhua]

Chinese leaders are prioritizing a green path in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative along and beyond the ancient Silk Road route, and are asking all the parties involved to engage in extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.

“We should pursue a new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable,” said President Xi Jinping during his opening remarks at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Sunday.

He also underscored the need to strengthen cooperation in ecological and environmental protection and build a sound ecosystem so as to realize the goals set by the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Echoing the need for a green footprint, Macro Lambertini, the director-general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said all countries should discard the old model of development pursued at the expense of the environment, and proceed down a new path of development in harmony with the environment and advocate a green infrastructure to avoid any detrimental impact on the natural system.

“We’re not going to develop a prosperous society in a degraded planet,” asserted Lambertini. He suggested countries along the Belt and Road should think of the environmental dimension at the beginning when engaging in various projects. This would help avoid damage of the environment or a waste of money and efforts on projects that could not be delivered ultimately out of ecological concerns.

The Chinese government has ordered enterprises and institutions involved in the initiative to practice environmental protection in foreign countries to ensure an eco-friendly and green Belt and Road.

Four ministries — including the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Foreign Affairs — have jointly released a document entitled “Guidance to Promote the Construction of a Green Belt and Road,” according to the State Council website.

“Economic prosperity and environmental well-being can be achieved at the same time,” declared Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and he urged all countries to show a compassionate spirit towards nature.

He said that many existing techniques can help strike a balance between ecological well-being and economic development, citing the example of the China-promoted Mombasa-Nairobi Railway that has created a number of bypasses to ensure a good habitat for wildlife in the Nairobi National Park.

Global commitment

The UNEP chief agreed with President Xi’s call for a global coalition for a green Belt and Road and hoped to work with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as well as businesses and the civil society along the routes in extensive consultation and joint contribution for a shared future of green energy, green transport, green finance, green compassion for nature as well as green ideas for mutual learning.

“Blue rivers and green forest are the new gold,” Solheim said, quoting the earlier words of President Xi.

“As the benefits of conserving nature and wildlife are increasingly evident, the WWF will continue to advise the government, contractors and companies on how to build (especially infrastructure) in a way that means we do not harm the natural system that we want to maintain and preserve,” said Lambertini.

He pledged to work across the full program with its wide network of local organizations along the routes and support local governments to consider the environmental dimension.