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.
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.
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banks and companies are currently supporting, and notes compelling examples where Chinese banks and companies have withdrawn support from activities with harmful biodiversity impacts in the past.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.
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.