Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) jointly convened the Belt and Road Green Energy Cooperation Side Event in the WWF Panda Hub at the United Nations 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, on November 11. The side event was one of a series of Belt and Road Green Development Partnership events at COP23. In attendance at this side-event were representatives from research institutes and NGOs from Belt and Road countries. Participants shared best practices from multilateral power sector cooperation, discussed the progress of renewable energy development and civil society cooperation, and emphasized the need for green development under BRI.
The event was moderated by Dr. Fuqiang Yang, Senior Adviser at NRDC and an Expert Steering-Committee Member of the Belt and Road Green Development Cooperation Partnership. Dr. Yang emphasized that energy cooperation is a key area of cooperation under BRI, especially given the potential for energy activities to significantly increase carbon emissions in BRI countries. According to Dr. Yang, successful green energy cooperation under BRI will require advanced planning, sufficient attention to social dimensions of energy projects, strengthened green finance, and substantial support to BRI countries to achieve their NDCs under the Paris Agreement.
Mr. Xiaohua Zhang, head of the UN South-South Incubator Program, made the opening remarks at the event. Since 2012, China has made significant efforts through the South-South Fund to support small island nations and least-developed nations, among others, to address climate change. Going forward, China will use the South-South Fund to expand low-carbon development under BRI.
Mr. Robert Ddamulira, head of WWF Uganda, emphasized that Africa currently has a choice: either follow the carbon-intensive path of the developed world, or invest heavily in renewables and leapfrogging into an era of clean energy. According to Mr. Ddamulira, China's BRI is an opportunity for Africa to develop energy access in a sustainable way.
Rao Jianye, Director of China's Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute (EPPEI), shared research findings on the overall energy demand across BRI regions, pointing out the fast pace of future energy demand growth, with new installed capacity forecasted to exceed 1000 GW. Currently, thermal power accounts for 70% of power generation across BRI countries, but there is huge potential for renewable energy development in these areas. Director Rao also introduced EPPEI's work in Laos, Vietnam, and other countries, providing planning and technical support, and working to expand renewable energy consumption development in these BRI countries.
Mr. Somsanith Sadettan, Deputy Manager from the Transmission and Substation Development Department of Electricite Du Laos, gave an overview of Laos' energy mix and energy demand as well as the progress of Chinese-Laos cooperation on clean energy and grid infrastructure development. Laos is planning to establish an interregional Southeast Asian power grid to facilitate the sale of hydropower to Thailand, Vietnam and other countries, replacing the use of carbon-intensive coal power.
China Green Finance Committee Chair and G20 Green Finance Working Group Co-Chair Ma Jun introduced the rapid development of green finance in China, including the release of the "Environmental Risk Management Initiative for China's Overseas Investment" in September 2017, aimed at reducing environmental risks for Chinese financial institutions and enterprises investing abroad, and promoting green investment and greater attention to environmental and climate risks in investment decisions. Mr. Ma said that the Green Finance Committee will release more detailed systematic guidelines and tools in the future to promote renewable energy investment and green development under BRI.
In recent years, many Chinese renewable energy companies have actively been developing cooperation in Belt and Road countries. Leading Chinese solar company Yingli Solar's Chief Technology Officer Dr. Dengyuan Song introduced his company's activities in Belt and Road countries, including working with a Thailand partner to build a 300 MW solar panel manufacturing facility in Thailand, and has also explored cooperation in Vietnam and Mexico on solar panel manufacturing, with the goal of making renewable energy more affordable. Dr. Song noted that many countries still lack sufficient policy support for developing renewable energy as well as financing mechanisms.
Global Environmental Institute, a Chinese NGO, has supported cooperation with Myanmar, Vietnam and other countries in developing renewable energy and sustainable communities. GEI Climate and Energy Director Yu Qingchan, together with its partner, Tom Peterson, CEO of Center for Climate Strategies, introduced GEI's cooperation with Sri Lanka, where it has been helping evaluate Sri Lanka's renewable energy potential, exploring establishment of a low carbon development community, and researching policies to support renewable energy development.