One Belt One Road Initiative

Greening Development Investments

Coordinated by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Duke Kunshan University, this effort is focused on collecting and assessing geospatial data to understand past impacts of infrastructure development on environmental (biodiversity and carbon) and social (health and energy access) factors. These analyses are used to provide recommendations for the design of future infrastructure investments that should result in the best possible environmental and social outcomes. The team is also exploring how to communicate biodiversity conservation in the face of infrastructure development to stakeholders and decision makers in China and BRI countries. This team hosted a workshop with the Duke Africa Initiative, examining the social and environmental impacts of Chinese financed infrastructure in Africa. In 2018 the team hosted a workshop on mapping biodiversity and infrastructure, which aimed at providing geospatial guidance for mitigating biodiversity impacts from infrastructure expansion.

Biodiversity and Infrastructure Mapping Workshop

To increase the effectiveness of biodiversity, ecosystem services and mitigation mapping for influencing the planning of infrastructure in Asia and Africa, Duke University and Duke Kunshan University will jointly host the Belt and Road Biodiversity Mapping Workshop. The workshop aimed to align the efforts and data of concerned institutions, reduce duplication of work, and standardize methods for the mapping of biodiversity and ecosystem services in relation to the BRI. This workshop brought experts together in order to explore the most effective ways to combine biodiversity, ecosystem services, and infrastructure project data. Workshop attendees planned for effective ways to get resulting biodiversity information into the hands of the proper decision makers. This workshop represented one in a series of workshops to be held at DKU on related, but distinct elements of the Duke Green Belt and Road Initiative.

This three-day workshop included government officials from China and key US and China think tanks and NGO representatives who focus on using the resulting mapping data. The workshop provided opportunities for environmental students from the MEM and iMEP programs to engage in the biodiversity mapping processes.

Project Leads: Stuart Pimm, Ph.D.,; Elizabeth Losos, Ph.D.; Lydia Olander, Ph.D.; Sara Mason; Binbin Li, Ph.D.,; Kathinka Furst, Ph.D.,; Moon Joon Kim, Ph.D.,

Green Belt and Road? The roles of Chinese NGOs

Besides a huge scale of construction of infrastructures and vast exchange of resources, the BRI will profoundly influence the international objective of protection to the climate and promotion to sustainable development. In the national document “Guiding Opinion on Promoting Construction of a Green ‘One Belt One Road’” published in April 2017, principles of ecological civilisation were laid out for the direction of the BRI: promoting global cooperation in a low-carbon economy, ecological conservation, technological exchange, law enforcement, effective management, green production, free finance and green consumerism. China also pledged to ensure that the BRI will be in line with its environmental objectives set in the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May 2017. National Development and Reform Commission signed an MOU and Action Plan for the BRI with the United Nations Development Programme China (UNDP China). The collaboration aims to align and accelerate the sustainable development goals with the effort from the BRI and to link up Belt and Road countries for mutual understanding on policies and regulations. Civil society organisation both in China and in BRI countries are also starting to focus their attention on this initiative. This project focuses on mapping and analysing the role of Chinese NGOs in facilitating and monitoring sustainable investment and development practices under the BRI umbrella. It provides an overview of the different roles Chinese NGO plays in these processes, their engagement with local NGOs in various BRI countries and discusses the opportunities and obstacles for effective society engagement under the Green BRI. 

Project Lead: Kathinka Furst, Ph.D.,

Energy Infrastructure

Yating Li, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the University Program of Environmental Policy, is completing a dissertation that focuses on two BRI related topics: 1. The drivers of Chinese residential electricity demand using micro data, especially the importance of increasing household income in developing countries and of rising temperature under climate change. 2. The impacts of Chinese overseas investment on environment and energy access, specifically, the impact of power plants that Chinese companies invested overseas in the past decade. She works interactively with researchers at Duke and in think tanks at Washington DC. 

Project Lead: Yating Li,

Financing Green Belt & Road

China’s Belt & Road Initiative is facing criticism of exacerbating environmental pollution and climate change in the B&R countries. On the one hand, the B&R countries tend to be energy and emission intensive. On the other hand, the Chinese industries involved in the BRI are likely to be concentrated in energy and other industries that have a long-term effect on environment and climate. Therefore, a green BRI is called for to reduce the adverse environmental consequence in the B&R countries. To achieve a green BRI, the central question is to determine whether an investment project is green. To this end, our research team propose a set of standards and indictors to determine the externality of an investment decision and its economic impact. The methodology developed can be used by financial institutions to assess the benefits and costs of green investments. 

Project Lead: Junjie Zhang,

Riding the Belt and Road

Many countries’ pursuit of economic development depend on enormous investments in infrastructure, none more so than China’s new Belt Road Initiative. This mammoth undertaking seeks to establish a “new Silk Road” linking China with over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The group aims to ignite a discussion among students and faculty members on multiple facets of the Belt Road Initiative, with a focus on environmental impacts. By identifying green development projects, sharing knowledge in a monthly seminar series, and connecting with researchers and stakeholders outside of Duke, the team hopes to promote graduate students’ involvement in this cutting-edge global issue. 

This project is sponsored by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies under the Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) Grant, and housed within the Duke University Energy Initiative. The D-SIGN internal funding mechanism encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.   

Project Leads: Yating Li, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy,; Travis Dauwalter, Ph.D. in Public Policy; Seth Morgan, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy; Zainab Qazi, Master of Environmental Management; Santiago Sinclair Lecaros, Master of Environmental Management
Faculty Mentors: Billy PizerElizabeth LososIndermit GillKathinka Fürst

Environmental and Economic Impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative on Pakistan's Energy Sector

In 2013, China announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which broadly aims to interconnect over 65 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa through infrastructure investment and economic development. A flagship component of BRI, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has a strong focus on energy infrastructure development. Currently, coal-fired plants constitute half of announced CPEC energy generation projects and 69% of capacity, throwing doubt on the environmentally friendly rhetoric surrounding the BRI initiative. This paper seeks to understand the cost and feasibility of using alternative technologies and a different energy mix as compared to emission-intensive CPEC energy projects. The levelized cost of electricity, CO2 emissions, and SO2 emissions were calculated for current CPEC projects using information gathered from Pakistan generation licenses and tariff documents. Generalized plants, based on current projects and other Pakistan power projects, were then used to build an optimization model around LCOE and emissions under different constraints Model results show that there were more cost effective and less polluting options using large re-gasified liquid natural gas plants and hydro projects. A literature review suggests that political and economic situations originating in China, as well as political factors in Pakistan, contribute to the use of coal over other technologies. Details.

Project Leads: Carley Reynolds, Tara Stout, Xiaoguan Wang (Masters project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Environmental Management degree in the Nicholas School of the Environment of Duke University )
Faculty Mentors: Elizabeth Losos, Lydia Olander, Sara Mason , Erika Weinthal