Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries will consider a proposition on A green energy development initiative at a forum for energy ministers of BRI countries in 2021, with the development of green energy gaining A grip worldwide in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the proposed green developmental model by China among the BRI countries will itself be a daunting challenge for China to reach its goal.
More recently, China’s announcement to become carbon neutral by 2060 September has sparked responses around the globe, calling it hard nut to crack for China. Moreover, a sustainable energy development model and an increased proportion of renewable energy in its project will prove a hindrance as China not only becomes the hungriest consumer of energy but also constitutes to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
In view of such a hazardous damage to the environment and climate, can China really promote a “green” Belt and Road Initiative among its member countries?
With China’s rapid growth population and economy along with increased development of huge manufacturing industries as well as migration into centrally heated cities has transformed China into a power hunger nation. Additionally, with its goal to become the largest world economy by 2035 it becomes impossible for the industrial sector to reduce its dependency on the carbon footprint.
China is a country where development and growth is totally fed by fossil fuels. Thus, this goal of zero greenhouse emission looks a bit like science fiction.
Manufacturing being the bread and butter of the Chinese economy ranks supreme in China as compared to any other developed country in the world. It requires higher per capita consumption of energy sources. These manufacturing units consume large amounts of power by burning fossil fuel, gas, etc. leading to enormous emissions. With such an unsound development at home, other BRI countries – including Myanmar - will be compelled to think twice before joining hands in the green initiative.
China is recorded as the world’s top pollution nation. Six of the top most polluted cities in the world are in China. Chinese industry and manufacturing units show a 70 per cent violation of environmental standards. The chemical run off of hazardous emissions in the manufacturing process severely harms the environment. As a result, this makes China responsible for emitting one quarter of world’s greenhouse gases i.e. the largest share by any country.
As the Chinese government aspires to provide energy for its industrial growth and economy in the wake of the pandemic, coal consumption looks set to steeply rise leading to bad air quality. China’s coal energy projects have accelerated to stimulate the virus-hit economy.
For decades, coal has always fueled China’s economic rise. Its energy systems heavily rely on coal. How will China’s transformation from being the world’s largest emitter pave a way for zero emissions to help achieve its green goal and become carbon neutral?
Although the BRI gives China the ability to interact with other countries, expand its integration of energy and other resources, burning of coal and other non-renewable sources of energy become a
visible problem which will impede its economic growth and the BRI initiative aiming at high quality and sustainable energy development.
China’s coal companies have invested billions on more than 200 coal projects in its 25 member countries as a part of BRI project which includes infrastructure building, will definitely scoop out the domestic efforts of any of these countries at emission busting.
Globally, as over 120 countries have unfolded their target for zero greenhouse emissions or carbon neutral, this goal definitely shakes China’s efforts to adopt better carbon trading system.
Moreover, China being the world’s largest investor in renewable energy, experts have pointed out that its renewable energy is ‘less reliable’ making the grid unstable. Its huge renewable objectives are strongly thwarted by geographical problems. In spite of China’s investment in wind and solar installation, China has cancelled numerous projects in its wind producing areas of Xinjiang and Gansu because of overcapacity and inability to connect the electricity grid.
As the BRI aims to connect all the countries involved under a green and digital BRI, China will have to face challenges to achieve the goal, otherwise its energy investment in the countries and region will drastically reduce each year.
Lee Chen is a pseudonym for a writer who covers Asia and world events