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China-EU Cooperation Sets a New Paradigm for Green Urban Development Under the Belt and Road Initiative
30 Jun, 2020

The rise of neoliberalism and related political ideas combined with the huge impact caused by COVID-19 have not only posed grave challenges to the world’s pandemic prevention system and financial system, but also hindered a more inclusive globalization.

In such a grim international situation, some scholars even believe that the globalization may be about to come to an end. In reality, however, while the old globalization is being gradually whittled away by the effect of pandemic, a new globalization will emerge and be developed. A case in point is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by Chinese leaders six years ago, and the idea of building a community of common destiny for mankind put forward four years ago, which provide a basic conception for a new globalization.

By April 2020, BRI covers approximately 4.5 billion people in 138 countries with a total GDP of approximately 30 trillion RMB. Obviously, BRI has set a new development paradigm and created a new regional and even global economic platform. By strengthening bilateral cooperation, enhancing multi-level and multi-channel communication, and promoting comprehensive development of bilateral relations, BRI is making important contributions to the green urbanization of the countries along the Belt and Road.

In order to trigger Chinese and EU experts’ cooperation to drive the planning of resilient cities and more sustainable projects among BRI, EC-Link Project has been developing a series of research papers  including the Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Urbanization, the Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Transport, the Belt and Road Initiative & Industry 4.0, and the Belt and Road Initiative & Green Finance, aiming to promote multi-party cooperation and resilient city building and other sustainable projects under the BRI.

Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Urbanization

According to McKinsey, by 2050, more than 60% of the world’s population will live in cities; and it is estimated that by 2025 the GDP of 600 megacities around the world will account for 60% of global GDP. With the rapid flows of human resources, logistics and capital under the BRI, infrastructure construction in the countries along the Belt and Road has been accelerated and their urbanization will further improve.

Urbanization is a driving force of global economies, but it also brings many social and environmental challenges to cities, especially for cities of the developing countries along the Belt and Road. The Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Urbanization issued by the EC-LINK provides solutions and programs of sustainable urbanization for cities along the Belt and Road. The paper states that, under the increasing pressure caused by climate and population factors, finding effective sustainable solutions for specific environments is crucial to ensuring sustainable development of the cities and the future of our planet and humanity.

Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Transport

To boost economic cooperation, China has quickened its pace to establish ties with the countries along the Belt and Road and invested billions of dollars in the countries under the BRI. With the increase in demands and investment for urban transportation infrastructure, many regional pivotal cities along the Belt and Road will have new opportunities for developments in urban transportation. Among the industries to which investment flows under the BRI in 2018, the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions have reached 40% of the total emissions. In the future, the emissions by the freight and passenger transport within the BRI may climb up further.

To avoid high-emissions caused by future investment and promote realization of the Paris Climate Agreement, it is essential to carry out global strategic cooperation on green transportation systems in the BRI cities. The Paper of the Belt and Road Initiative & Sustainable Transport points out that, to establish a low carbon, affordable and efficient urban transportation system with safe and reliable 

transportation that is conducive to economic development, China and Europe should make sure that the BRI countries and cities are fully involved in the decision-making process, striving to achieve closer cooperation at the policy, financial, and technical levels, as well as full integration and optimization of the resources of all parties, so as to promote healthy development of urban green transportation. 

Belt and Road Initiative & Industry 4.0

From the perspective of industrialization, the launch of the BRI demonstrates that the industrialization of a peacefully rising power is having a “spillover” effect on the countries along the Belt and Road, which will promote their industrial upgrading, economic development and industrialization. This is of great significance to the progress of the world industrialization. As the 4th Industrial Revolution is accelerating, the BRI will help cities mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change while promoting world industrialization.

Continued urbanization not only puts pressure on the world resources, but also causes deterioration of the natural environment. In order to address these problems, cities need to be smarter, more sustainable, and more resilient, and these can only be achieved with the support of “Industry 4.0”. The Paper of the Belt and Road Initiative & Industry 4.0 states that, with the support of the “Industry 4.0”, intelligence cities will not only be reflected in the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but also in the use of information technology to promote industrial change and ultimately achieve an effective response to the impact of climate change. Therefore, the “Industry 4.0” is not only a goal of the BRI, but also one of the most important ways to achieve green BRI.  

Belt and Road Initiative & Green Finance

The countries along the Belt and Road are relatively under-developed and generally adopt the extensive development mode. Although their economies are growing fast, their pollutant emissions are also increasing rapidly, and they are faced with increasingly serious resource and environmental challenges. At the same time, they also face such problems as faultiness of environment-related systems, weak 

environmental infrastructure, low technical levels, and insufficient financing and investment in environmental protection. All above are the bottlenecks that restrict the implementation of green BRI. 

According to the paper on the “Belt and Road Initiative & Green Finance”, the key to making the BRI regions truly embark on the sustainable development road is a mechanism which allows financial activities to fully consider the ecological and environmental elements, and incorporates the potential impacts of eco-environment-related (potential) costs, benefits, risks, returns and other factors into the corresponding financing and investment decisions. By guiding the flows of economic resources, sustainable development of the economy, society and eco-systems can be promoted. In other words, the focus should be put on promoting green finance under the BRI, and achieving sustainable coordinated development of economy, society and environment through green development (the research paper will be soon available online). 

With each research paper, EC-Link Project wants to contribute not only in providing additional useful information for a better understanding of BRI but also to support an open dialogue on such relevant subject providing a fruitful baseline for further discussion.