GUIYANG, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative must put green development high on their regional cooperation agendas to ensure pollution is managed before, rather than after, think tanks suggested at the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang 2016.
Environmental protection is a good place to begin exploring policy coordination as all cooperation would have an environmental impact, said Li Lailai, China country director for the World Resources Institute (WRI), at the forum which has just concluded in Guiyang City, southwest China.
The primary goal to enhance facility connectivity along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, will result in more infrastructure projects.
Mutual authentication of green produce could also support the realization of unimpeded trade, while knowledge-sharing on green credit could facilitate financial integration across the region.
Citing WRI water resources data and satellite images, Li said quite a number of Belt and Road countries face a potential water shortage and have sparse forest coverage, therefore, the environment deserves more attention now than ever.
Another report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the countries under the initiative account for more than 70 percent of the world's population, 40 percent of the world's land, and they discharge more than 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
"As a lot more countries have begun to value green growth, collaboration on outdated technology just for the pursuit of profits will not work. Environmental knowledge will be the yardstick by which we measure the competence of enterprises engaged in cooperation projects," said Liu Shijin, vice president of China Development Research Foundation, suggesting the central government tighten supervision of those companies planning to invest abroad.
"Many years ago, when we first talked about green growth, we simply factored environmental issues into the cost, and our basic idea for the calculation of green GDP was to take out expenses on environmental protection from the overall GDP. Now many realize it is a good engine for innovative growth and represents a new way of life," said Liu.
The Belt and Road must follow the green development trend and spread knowledge and advanced systems through cooperation, he said.
Despite the existence of development disparities, a large number of countries under the initiative have established strategies and policies to boost green development, including Nepal, India, Mongolia and Central Asian countries.
"When China reaches out to countries under the initiative, it offers smart power grids, high-speed rail and intelligent robots, the leading systems offered by Chinese firms," said Wei Jianguo, vice president of China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
In January, China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.
Shu Weiguo, chief economist of China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp., said the cooperation was a major Belt and Road project.
Invented by Chinese researchers, the high temperature gas cooled reactors (HTR) addresses the risk of radiation leaks as the reactor cores will never melt due to the use of a special spherical fuel element.
Shu disclosed that his company has been in talks with Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and the ASEAN Center for Energy on potential HTR cooperation.
Gao Hongbin, deputy director of the Systems Engineering Bureau of China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), said the CAEA will improve its nuclear security capacity building from a global perspective, conduct more clean energy technical exchanges and join the international community to build a fair, cooperative and win-win nuclear security system for the world.
Chinese companies invested 14.8 billion U.S. Dollars in the Eurasia region under the initiative in 2015, up 18.2 percent from a year earlier.
Peter Medgyessy, former prime minister of Hungary, commended China for its participation in the construction of the high-speed railway linking Serbia and Hungary when attending the forum.
It was the first European railway project China has participated in and has been hailed as a flagship Belt and Road project. Upon completion of the renovation, travel will be cut from eight hours to less than three and the rail line originally built in 1882 will be powered by electricity.
Medgyessy said he hoped the initiative could introduce more environmentally-friendly processes and systems to Europe.
Since the initiative was launched in 2013, China has been pushing to facilitate its implementation. The Silk Road Fund, established in late 2014, with first-phase capital of 10 billion U.S. dollars, for instance, gives priority to green projects.
In June, China signed a memorandum of cooperation with the government of the Republic of Serbia on new energy projects including, but not limited to, hydro, wind, solar and biomass.
Another memorandum of cooperation was signed the same month for an equity investment in a German company specializing in power and heat generation from waste.
In October 2015, China promised a 20-billion-yuan South-South cooperation fund to help other developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.
As South-South cooperation crosses with the Belt and Road Initiative, experts say the fund might help green transformation projects among developing countries under the initiative.
A pressing issue facing Belt and Road countries, however, relates to the lack of unified green standards and an incentive mechanism, said Li Lailai.
Since all projects have environmental impacts and influence the sustainability of the relevant parties, there must be effective ways to implement the political view of pursuing green development. Having an incentive mechanism encouraging enterprises to shoulder their responsibilities would be a good choice as more social forces need to be mobilized, Li said.
Given environmental policies vary with countries, experts say having a unified environmental standard would be tough.
Zou Ji, deputy chief of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said that enhancing coordination among each country's environmental watchdog is feasible.X "Such coordination will also allow relevant parties to integrate projects with their own climate change commitments and the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations for Sustainable Development," said Zou.