China Silk Road plan needs clean investment safeguards: study

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s Belt and Road Initiative must bring cost-effective new low-carbon methods to developing countries and avoid outdated polluting technologies in order to ensure global climate goals are met, a new study said on Monday.

The 126 countries in the Belt and Road region now account for 28% of global emissions, but on their current trajectory, that could rise to 66% by 2050, researchers, led by Ma Jun, a special advisor to China’s central bank, said.

That could mean global carbon levels would rise to nearly double the level needed to keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius, a major goal of the Paris agreement.

“If B&RCs (Belt and Road countries) follow historical carbon-intense growth patterns... it may be enough to result in a 2.7 degree path, even if the rest of the world adheres to 2 degree levels of emissions,” the report said.

The research was published jointly by China’s influential Tsinghua Center for Finance and Development, which provides recommendations to policy makers, along with London-based Vivid Economics and U.S.-based Climate Works.

The study estimated that more than $12 trillion in infrastructure investment would need to be “decarbonised”, and called for safeguards to ensure existing low-carbon technologies and practices were implemented, although even that might not be enough to meet 2050 goals.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a Beijing-led program aimed at boosting economic integration through infrastructure and energy investments in Asia and beyond. Signatory countries account for about a quarter of the global economy.

Although China has promised to decarbonise its energy system, it has continued to approve and finance coal projects, using $1 billion in “green finance” to fund coal-fired power projects in the first half of 2019.

According to a study by environmental group Greenpeace, China has also invested in 67.9 gigawatts of coal-fired power in Belt and Road countries since 2014, compared to 12.6 GW of wind and solar.

China has also been criticized for investing in overseas coal-fired power projects using polluting technology no longer permitted at home.

Li Gao, a senior Chinese climate official, told reporters on the sidelines of a briefing on Friday that as a matter of principle, China would not use outdated technology in overseas projects, but in practice this would depend on circumstances and the actual standards of the hosting country.

Reporting by David Stanway; additional reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING; editing by Richard Pullin