As demand for infrastructure projects grows, along with the need to address climate change and the SDGs, China’s Belt and Road Initiative could be a powerful vehicle for promoting the global development of sustainable infrastructure and investment.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to improve connectivity across Asia, Europe and Africa and current and planned works encompass 900 projects, worth $890 billion, across 65 nations. A core objective for the Chinese government is that the initiative will help to realize sustainable development in the countries involved.
Financial institutions investing in Belt and Road infrastructure projects will have an important role to play in ensuring that this objective is achieved both through applying environmental safeguards and criteria to their investments, and through the provision of expertise and training to project developers.
The use of sustainable procurement in infrastructure projects is one approach which investors have been encouraging, to help ensure that environmental interests are integrated into the design, construction and operation of such projects: both procurement at the project level as well as for the goods and services needed to supply these projects. This approach provides a means of not only reducing the environmental impacts of such projects – such as deforestation, soil and water pollution and noise – but also of helping to drive green growth through promoting sustainable supply chains and providing energy efficient transport systems.
Drawing on the experiences of Chinese, European and multilateral development banks, Chatham House and Renmin University have been exploring how these institutions are encouraging the use of sustainable procurement through their environmental and procurement policies, investment criteria and the provision of capacity building.
The intended outcome of the research is to identify best practice in this area, and consider how China’s policy banks, regulators, and the international community could best integrate environmental issues into Belt and Road infrastructure projects, and so ensure that it is successful in supporting sustainable development.