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BRI Plays Significant Role in Switching to Renewables

Source: Science and Technology Daily | 2023-11-29 17:20:04 | Author: QI Liming

The Colombo International Container Terminal, an investment development project under the BRI, has embraced green technology since its inception in 2014. (PHOTO: XINHUA)

Edited by QI Liming

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, the endeavor to build a community with a shared future for mankind has been strengthened. As climate change and energy issues continue to be among the prime concerns, it has been China's constant objective to help its BRI partners develop new energy industries.

Adding impetus to the switch to renewables

According to a report from the Green Finance and Development Center (GFDC) at Fudan University in Shanghai, in the first half of 2023, "green engagement" construction and investment in solar, wind and hydropower, accounted for the largest share of energy engagement seen during any period to date.

In H1 2023, 41 percent of energy engagement via the BRI went to solar and wind, while 14 percent went to hydropower. China's engagement in wind, solar and hydropower amounted to around 4.8 billion USD, compared with 3.8 billion USD in H1 2022. Strong green performance was in large part due to a fall in oil and gas-related projects.

"If we continue at this pace, 2023 would be the year with the largest green energy investment," GFDC Director Christoph Nedopil told Reuters.

As time moves to this November, the latest report released by Wood Mackenzie, a global energy and natural resources consultancy, said that Chinese companies have made significant strides in the BRI's overseas power projects over the past decade. With an estimated investment value of around 200 billion USD, over 300 projects of 128 GW of power have installed, equivalent to 1.3 times Australia's installed capacity in 2022.

The South China Morning Post analyzed the report and pointed out that, overseas renewable power projects are expected to become a growing focus of the BRI, as China pledges to put an end to developing new coal power projects abroad.

Renewable projects account for nearly 60 percent of 80 gigawatts (GW) of overseas power capacity expected to come online under the BRI. The share of renewables in newly built capacity under the BRI plan has increased to 47 percent in 2022 from 19 percent 10 years ago.

"China is changing its overall strategy, so we expect to see more focus on renewables of the BRI," said Alex Whitworth, vice president and head of Asia-Pacific power and renewables research at Wood Mackenzie in the report.

The Wood Mackenzie report seems to echo what was predicted by an article released on Brookings website in 2018.

Moving BRI consumption beyond fossil fuels

As early as 2018, Daniel Araya, senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), issued an article on Brookings website. The article forecast that the BRI is poised to transform the clean energy industry.

"What seems clear is that clean energy is a 21st century industry that China is well positioned to play a pivotal role, and the BRI will be critical to moving global energy consumption beyond fossil fuels," Araya predicted.

UK-based Carbon Brief covering energy and policy also focuses on the low-carbon energy development of the BRI. Since China has stated an intention to pivot the BRI towards low-carbon energy development, some leading experts have shared their thoughts on Carbon Brief website this October.

Kevin Gallagher, director of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, said that as the BRI moves into its second decade, China can solidify its pivot toward low-carbon development in the Global South.

Yasiru Ranaraja, founding director of the BRI Sri Lanka, said that China's commitment to shift the BRI towards low-carbon energy development has significant implications for climate action in the coming decade.

"When we delve into the context of global climate efforts, we encounter a historical divide between developed and developing nations regarding climate justice and the debate over the common but differentiated responsibilities principle in climate action," he said.

China, through the BRI, has emerged as a crucial player in advocating a three-phase approach to low-carbon development: funding, construction and operation, Ranaraja said.

Editor: 齐笠名

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