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China is Expanding its UN Presence, in Belt and Road Push (Climate Home News)

August 9, 2019

From the article:

"As the US withdraws from the international arena, China is playing for dominance in UN spaces.

And while Beijing strengthens its influence at the top of international institutions, president Xi Jinping’s promise to green China’s belt and road initiative (BRI) – its ambitious campaign of foreign investments – is being tested.

Will China walk the talk, or is Beijing’s increased participation in global forums an attempt to neutralise its critics?

Reflecting its growing economic clout, China has become the second largest UN donor after the US and the largest contributor of troops for peacekeeping operations among permanent members of the Security Council. In recent years, it has played an ever bigger role in environmental and development agencies.

The inauguration last week of Qu Dongyu as the first Chinese director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – the UN’s largest technical agency – is the latest example of that. The outgoing Chinese vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, who worked on the BRI’s agriculture policy, Qu was elected in a secret ballot for a four-year mandate, with the possibility of running for a second term.

This could see him oversee the organisation in the critical period to 2030 – the deadline to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs)...

Beijing’s increasing clout in UN spaces largely seeks to legitimise its BRI, an umbrella phrase for its diplomatic, trade and investments push abroad.

It includes carbon-intensive infrastructure projects, such as coal-fired power plants, which are coming under increasing scrutiny for their environmental impact.

On the whole, it is 'not very green,' said Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Global Development. 'Chinese officials have not yet confronted that reality.'

The UN provides an important forum for China to discuss what the greening of the BRI means, said Alvin Lin, climate and energy policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s China Programme.

The BRI has been 'one the key areas of focus for that cooperation between China and the UN,' he said, ensuring the initiative is in line with both the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs.

That 'is a positive thing,' he added, 'because more attention is being paid to this issue...'"

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Director of the US Development Policy Initiative, Co-Director of Sustainable Development Finance, and Senior Fellow