Press release

China’s Belt and Road – what needs to change to achieve the SDGs and climate goals by 2030

Published on 18 December 2019

Communities and civil society groups directly affected by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) must have a greater say on investment priorities. Countries in Africa and Asia should also be supported to manage and prioritise China’s investment to align with their own national SDG targets. These are the arguments made in the IDS BulletinThe Belt and Road Initiative and the SDGs: Towards Equitable, Sustainable Development’, published today.

Following the recent COP 25 Climate Summit in Madrid, the IDS Bulletin issue also makes clear the need to create international environmental and social standards that the BRI should adhere to.  Enforced regulations for infrastructure investment are also needed, to make clear the expectations for China as the world’s biggest carbon emitter, regarding the BRI and for Chinese companies working in BRI countries to reduce carbon emissions.

The actions of China’s ‘project of the century’, said to span 67 countries and be worth between eight and nine trillion dollars, will be critical to whether climate change goals and the SDG 2030 deadline – now just ten years away – are to be met.

Professor Melissa Leach, Director of the Institute of Development Studies and co-editor of the IDS Bulletin issue, says: “There are many opportunities and challenges that China’s BRI presents in relation to meeting the sustainable development goals. Critical to making sure that the BRI contributes to meeting the SDGs by 2030 is making sure that local communities and civil society – those directly affected by the Chinese BRI investments – have a greater say. Their voices need to be heard.

“International aid donors, multilateral agencies and development banks should also help build capacity of Belt and Road affected countries in Asia and Africa to manage and prioritise Chinese investment to align with their own national sustainable development goals.”

Jing Gu, IDS Research Fellow and editor of the IDS Bulletin issue, says: “China’s Belt and Road Initiative is staggering in its global scale and ambition at a time when other countries such as the US and UK currently appear to be retreating to a more nationalist position.

“BRI has its critics but it is happening and internationally we need to engage with the reality of it and take the opportunities it presents to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and combat climate change.”

The IDS Bulletin ‘The Belt and Road Initiative and the SDGs: Towards Equitable, Sustainable Development’ brings together eight academic articles featuring country case studies of the BRI and sustainable development in Myanmar, Kenya, Pakistan and Greece. It also examines issues of the digital silk road, environmental and social standards of BRI investment and the BRI as a critical link to delivering the 2030 Agenda.


Notes to Editors:

  • The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is a global research and learning organisation for equitable and sustainable change, based at the University of Sussex. Our vision is of equal and sustainable societies, locally and globally, where everyone can live secure, fulfilling lives free from poverty and injustice. We believe passionately that cutting-edge research, knowledge and evidence are crucial in shaping the changes needed for our broader vision to be realised, and to support people, societies and institutions to navigate the challenges ahead.
  • The Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development at the Institute of Development Studies is at the forefront of research and practical analysis that helps connect governments, donors, civil society, and academia to explore new way to address global development challenges, with a particular focus on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It is led by IDS Research Fellow, Dr Jing Gu.
  • The IDS Bulletin is an open access, peer-reviewed journal focusing on international development. In continual publication since 1968, it has a well-established reputation for intellectually rigorous articles developed through learning partnerships on emerging and evolving development challenges presented in an accessible manner in themed issues that bridge academic, practice and policy discourse.




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