WWF and Greening the Belt and Road Initiative
WWF is active in 33 of the 64 BRI countries. In September this year, several of these offices met to discuss further work on greening the BRI. As well as the core projects building transport infrastructure, chiefly railways, ports and fibre optic connections, BRI will open up locations for economic development and stimulate investments in extraction, electricity generation, shipping and commerce.
Infrastructure development can generate enormous economic benefits, but if it isn’t planned carefully, it can have unintended, negative environmental consequences. We undertook2 a spatial assessment of the possible impacts of BRI on habitats. The diagram below shows WWF’s assessment of the possible severity of effects along the corridors.
We found BRI corridors overlap with the range of 265 threatened species including saiga antelopes, tigers and giant pandas; also, BRI corridors overlap with 1,739 Important Bird Areas or Key Biodiversity Areas and 46 biodiversity hotspots or Global 200 ecoregions.
WWF has made important recommendations3 to the Belt and Road Forum to minimise the negative consequences of BRI projects. Recommendations include, projects should be planned and implemented using the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and China’s own philosophy of ecological civilisation. It is also important where possible to direct investment towards ecological infrastructure and renewable energy.
More parochially the BRI is important for Hong Kong. The government has identified that Hong Kong is well placed to provide professional services such as arranging the finances, setting up legal entities and supplying other technical services to BRI projects. This, in theory, could provide Hong Kong people with exciting opportunities – especially in finance and professional services – to green the Belt and Road. We welcome opening up this debate.