Regions along the economic corridors of the China-proposed Belt and Road (“Yi Dai Yi Lu”) Initiative are facing huge opportunities because China, together with other countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, are responding to the region’s need for investment and development. It is expected that new roads, energy, and communications infrastructure can accelerate productivity for local economies in these regions. Yet, considering some remarkable facts in many of these regions—i.e. widely-distributed fragile ecosystems, multiple biodiversity hotspots, observed strongly adverse climate change effects, as well as highly dependence of community livelihoods on ecosystems and their services—it is always a major concern for countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative whether and how these development initiatives can be undertaken in a cooperative and sustainable manner.

Since as early as 2012, UNEP-IEMP has stretched itself to build climate resilience through ecosystem-based approaches in the developing world. Major projects and initiatives include the EbA South project thatenhances capacity, knowledge, and technology support to build climate resilience in the global south,a research project in Central Asia on climatic and human-made impacts on ecosystems, and the South-South Cooperation on Climate Change Forum which has been taken up by the UN Secretary-General’s Office as an annual high-level event since 2016.

Since 2016, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has dedicated itself to promoting the Belt and Road International Science and Technology Cooperation Programme. Meanwhile, UN Environment’s vision for its engagement in the Belt and Road Initiative is to incorporate environmental sustainability considerations across the various focus areas and sectors of the initiative, with an ultimate goal of ensuring that investment made for the Belt and Road contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level. UNEP-IEMP is working on their shared determination to build a green Belt and Road through enhanced international science and technology cooperation.

Specifically, UNEP-IEMP is working to provide science-based evidence onthe impacts of multiple environmental factors (climatic, ecological, socio-economic, and others) on poverty and livelihoods in the Belt and Road region. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has paid much attention to assessing environmental changes in the region along the Belt and Road, as reflected in its strategic research programmes like the Digital Belt & Road (DBAR) and Pan-Third Pole Environment Programme (Pan-TPE). UN Environment is establishing, jointly with China, the International Coalition for Green Development on the Belt and Road. Our work is built on and complementary to the work of both sides by providing policy recommendations for poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods in environmentally and socioeconomically vulnerable regions along the Belt and Road, notably in river basins, dryland agricultural areas, grasslands, etc. 

Key actions under the Belt and Road portfolio will include:

  • Facilitating a comprehensive evaluation, including case studies of typically fragile ecosystems, on the impacts of multiple environmental factors on poverty and livelihoods in the Belt and Road region;
  • Collecting good practices and viable technologies on sustainable ecosystem management and organizing international training and workshops for the Belt and Road region;

Developing policy briefs and participating in high-level science-policy forums that support UN Environment’s strategic presence in responding to the Belt and Road Initiative.



Ecosystem-based Adaptation through South-South Cooperation (EbA South)

Pan-TPE programme: Assess the Impacts of Environmental Change and Policy Recommendations for Green Silk Road

Strengthening Qinghai women farmers’ income security and resilience in a changing climate

Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP)