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China’s Enhanced Global Leadership on Clean Energy Will Boost Its New Silk Road Initiative


Government officials, organization representatives, experts, scholars, and business leaders from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations recently gathered in Beijing to discuss topics like infrastructure, energy resources, environmental protection, trade, and economic cooperation at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Eric Heitz, CEO and Co-founder of Energy Foundation, attended the forum and was invited to address the Fifth Global Think Tank Summit on the Belt and Road Initiative and clean energy.


Eric Heitz, CEO and Co-founder of Energy Foundation, at Fifth Global Think Tank Summit on Tuesday.

The Belt and Road Initiative marks China’s significant attempt to participate in the global economic, environmental, and social governance, as well as its effort to shore up China’s global leadership. How the initiative is implemented will have great impact on the dynamics of global investment, trade, manufacturing, energy use, environmental protection, and the fight against climate change. Also, it caters to China’s strategic calculations to move forward the ecological civilization from a global perspective, shape the image of China as a responsible power, and improve its global leadership on green and low carbon development.

China is a global leader on clean energy investment

As an emerging economy and the largest developing country in the world, China has stuck to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and has adopted and implemented many sustainable development strategies/policies. It is playing an increasingly important role in the global climate governance and in the green and low carbon development.

China is the largest global investor in energy efficiency in industry and building products. China has also been the country with the largest renewables investment in the past five years. The $102.9 billion figure for 2015 represents more than a third of the global total, almost as much as the U.S. and Europe combined. China is also the world’s leading solar and wind manufacturer and the largest market for these technologies. This has great economic, environmental, and social benefits—in terms of new jobs created—for China.

China’s Enhanced global leadership on clean energy will help secure the success of its Belt and Road strategy

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have become consensus of the international community, and the green and low-carbon development has become the inevitable global trend. Such development is an effective way to help the world economy revive. The Belt and Road Initiative, together with China’s strategy for ecological civilization and green and low-carbon development, is highly consistent with the global consensus and contributes to the world’s effort to build a common community of interest. Prioritizing green energy and green infrastructure across the Belt and Road countries will make profound impact on the sustainable development of the world, as well as the global fight against climate change. When China purses its Belt and Road strategy, it is essential to enhance the country’s global leadership on the important issues of clean energy and climate change.

The Belt and Road initiative can work on the following priorities to promote green energy and green infrastructure across Asia, Europe, and Africa. First and foremost, the initiative should emphasize energy efficiency investment, especially in the industry, building, and infrastructure sectors. Such investment, by doing more with less energy at a lower cost, creates a “win-win” situation for the economy and the environment. Wind and solar power, supplemented by some hydro and biomass, should be the second priority. Country partners of the initiative can benefit from fast deployment of Chinese technologies. And this has great climate and air quality co-benefits. Battery manufacturing, electric vehicles, and smart grid charging infrastructure is a third priority. Advances here, especially linked to good urban designs, can improve life quality and reduce pollution—helping make the skies all over the region blue.

Clean energy investment will bring a “triple win” of economy, environment, and social benefits to China and the Belt and Road countries

China is seeking a development path that coordinates economic growth and ecological conservation. Its innovation in growth pattern offers good reference to other countries along the Belt and Road, in clean energy investment, technology transfer, and capacity building. By 2015, the renewable energy sector had created 8.1 million new jobs around the world 3.5 million of them were in China. The National Energy Administration projects $361 billion investment in renewables during the 13th five -year plan period, a figure that can translate into more than 13 million new jobs.

Energy Foundation assists China in its clean energy transition and the Belt and Road strategy

Energy Foundation believes that China’s clean energy and economic transition will have a global impact. Based on our experience of assisting China’s sustainable energy development for almost two decades, we have recently supported the Green Finance Committee to engage Chinese companies to voluntarily commit to higher environment standards in their overseas investment; we have supported financial institutions to establish guidelines for overseas investment in energy efficiency; and we have supported the development of green construction guidelines that can apply to infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. In the future, Energy Foundation will continue to contribute to the initiative, promoting clean energy transition of China and the countries across the region.

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