Amazonia is the world the largest forest and river system and a provider of ecosystem services that have global benefits. However, various economic activities, both legal and illegal, result in the loss of large areas of forests. In 2020, the Amazon lost some 2.3 million hectares of forest in the nine countries of the pelvis.
These pressures have intensified the effects of climate change, and with it the social and economic vulnerability of predominantly rural and indigenous populations. This vulnerability can be particularly acute in countries like Brazil, Colombia and Peru, which are among the most dangerous for conservationists.
Balancing conflicts with environmental degradation, development and economic growth has long been a challenge for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, which are faced with significant infrastructure gaps and real investment needs. In this context, 19 countries in the region have joined the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which offers economic, commercial, social and cultural integration, mainly through development of transport and energy projects.
However, since its launch in 2013, the development of rules for the BIS has so far not kept pace with investment – something new guidance issued jointly this year by two Chinese ministries seek to address. But such guidelines, in our opinion, should go further to recognize the specific character of the Amazon, its environment and its communities.
Green development guidelines
In July this year, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment jointly issued the “Green Development Guidelines for Overseas Investment and Cooperation” in the framework of the BIS. It lists three main objectives: pollution prevention, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. These guidelines are volunteers.
The guidelines encourage Chinese companies to mitigate the risk of environmental impacts in their investments abroad and urge them not to rely solely on host country standards. It also encourages them to align with international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, among others.
The green development guidelines recognize the importance of implementing tools such as strategic environmental assessments (SEA), as well as greenhouse gas measurement. Another recommendation is to incorporate mechanisms for handling complaints related to non-compliance with environmental and social obligations in order to improve accountability.
Adapting to the Amazon
The unique characteristics of the Amazon and lessons learned from the implementation of infrastructure and energy projects in the region – many of them by Chinese companies – mean that they should be factored into the guidelines on projects abroad.