June 2021 was the first G7 summit meeting since the outbreak of of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the opening summit in the United States’ ‘new era’ – the first for the new Biden administration. And it gave us a new Big Idea: “Green Belt and Road”.
The global economy is trying to recover from the extraordinary shocks of the pandemic and identify new ways of growing. The summit gained a lot of attention in boosting global confidence. One notable consensus was the G7’s determination in fighting climate change.
Reversing the US’ former retreat from the Paris Agreement in the Trump era, Biden’s US signalled a strong commitment to tackling the global challenge of protecting the environment.
And we got the term “Green Belt and Road Initiative” as analogy to express how the G7 should emulate China’s Belt and Road initiative but give it a green emphasis.
The new phrase is helpful for two reasons.
First, the Belt and Road Initiative or ‘BRI’ is now popularised and legitimised as a concept in Western politics. China has become a rising power in reshaping the world order with strategic initiatives such as BRI in both developed (Italy was the first G7 country to endorse BRI in March 2019, resulting contracts worth a potential value of €20 billion) and less developed countries (e.g. China’s activity involvement in Africa).
Second, China has also committed to tackling climate change with the engagement to enhance renewable energy mix in its 14th Five-Year Plan, in addition to its already leading position in alternative energy generation (wind, solar, etc) and its strong electric vehicle industry.
So, the question becomes: who is going to the lead the green agenda?
In the foreseeable future, it may well be that we have a “war for green”! In other words, a competition to see who can be greener.
And the competition will turn to collaboration. Because countries and regional entities will realise in time that it’s not about competing to beat each other, but competing together to beat climate change.
Global societal challenges, such as climate change, cannot be solved by a couple of countries, but needs a consortium of global players from advanced, developing, and less developed countries. The Green Belt and Road may be a very helpful nudge in this direction.