Jan 9, 2019

The climate stakes of China's Belt and Road initiative

Adapted from a Mercator Institute for China Studies map; Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Yale Environment 360 has a cautionary look at the emissions stakes of China's Belt & Road initiative (BRI), the massive collection of infrastructure projects that spans several continents.

Why it matters: The multi-decade project formally launched in 2013 aims to project China's economic interests through a network of infrastructure projects that include shipping ports, railways and highways, Isabel Hilton, writing for Yale Environment 360, argues: "BRI has the potential to transform economies in China’s partner countries. Yet it could also tip the world into catastrophic climate change."

Where it stands: She notes that the project will "absorb massive amounts of concrete, steel, and chemicals, creating new power stations, mines, roads, railways, airports, and container ports, many in countries with poor environmental oversight."

  • But her biggest focus is on the initiative's connection to Chinese-backed plans to expand coal-fired power construction in other countries — even as it takes steps to curb domestic air pollution and carbon emissions.

The big picture: "China may be pursuing eco-civilization at home, but it urgently needs to address the global risks it is creating in the Belt and Road Initiative," Hilton writes.

Go deeper: The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative

Go deeper

We're entering a new golden age of China journalism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A growing number of investigative journalists and news organizations around the world are investing more resources in covering China from afar.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party claims China's rise offers the world an alternative to western leadership and values. In the coming decade, journalism is vital to understanding exactly what kind of global leader China will be.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020 - World

Report: Revision to environmental law could limit climate change review

Unused pipe for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline sits outside Gascoyne, North Dakota in 2014. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A new Trump administration proposal aims to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, which would make infrastructure and fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline easier to accomplish, the New York Times reports.

What's happening: The proposed revision would allow agencies to ignore "cumulative" consequences of major infrastructure projects — which courts have interpreted as weighing a project's impact on climate change.

Go deeperArrowJan 4, 2020

Trump announces rule changes to exempt big projects from environmental review

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump on Thursday announced that his administration is vastly narrowing the scope of a 50-year-old law governing environmental reviews of large infrastructure and energy projects.

Why it matters: The proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will make the process to review big-ticket fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline easier and faster, while also excluding consideration of climate change.

Go deeperArrowJan 9, 2020