On December 15, 2022, 90 civil society groups from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the world called on Chinese authorities and actors to protect biodiversity and people in its overseas investments. As China is chairing the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP) currently underway this month, civil society and impacted communities voiced concerns that many Chinese banks, companies, contractors, and other Chinese overseas developers are not meeting international norms and standards in protecting the environment, people, and biodiversity, as obligated under China’s green finance and overseas policy frameworks.
The civil society letter highlights China’s commitments to protecting biodiversity, and provides concrete recommendations for how Chinese authorities and overseas actors can do their part in stopping and reversing the biodiversity crisis. The letter also includes a list of 37 controversial projects associated with harmful biodiversity, environmental, and social impacts which Chinese banks and companies are currently supporting, and notes compelling examples where Chinese banks and companies have withdrawn support from activities with harmful biodiversity impacts in the past. Although these cases represent the exception rather than norm, they indicate the capability of Chinese actors to take positive steps in protecting biodiversity.
Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition is particularly concerned with the fact, that 15 out of 37 problematic projects with Chinese participation are dam construction projects in river basins important for biodiversity conservation, which could cause significant damage to flora and fauna, and disrupt ecosystem services important for survival of local communities. However, China, that is world champion in developing all renewable energy technologies and modern energy systems, has both capacity (and global responsibility!) to choose for export abroad not the destructive dams on free-flowing rivers, but less damaging technologies, as well as to ensure that those projects are not placed in areas, where they can cause significant damage to biodiversity and local indigenous communities.
As the Belt and Road Initiative expands, Chinese banks and companies will likely continue to have significant environmental, social, and biodiversity impacts. In order to adequately address such impacts, Chinese banks and companies must improve institutional mechanisms for engaging with the public and impacted communities, as well as build trust and credibility amongst the international and local communities that they are willing and capable in identifying and addressing biodiversity risks posed by their overseas activities. As the chair of this year’s CBD COP, Chinese authorities should showcase their commitment to protecting biodiversity by holding Chinese banks and companies accountable for their harmful, overseas impacts, and encourage Chinese actors to meaningfully engage and address community concerns.
In another letter 73 civil society organizations in called on all signatory parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to take concrete, active actions to stop and reverse biodiversity loss.
The letter to Chinese actors and the list of controversial projects: