G7 unveil West’s rival to China’s Belt and Road scheme with $40 trillion green investment

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Three-day summit includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US - Getty
Three-day summit includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US - Getty

The Group of Seven rich nations threw down a gauntlet to China on Saturday with the launch of a global green infrastructure project to rival Beijing's Belt and Road scheme.

The "Build Back Better World" (B3W) project will seek to narrow an estimated $40 trillion of infrastructure investment required to slow and adapt to the impacts of climate change in low and middle income countries.

It came as the White House said President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders discussed "strategic competition with China", on the second day of their summit in Cornwall and explicitly linked the infrastructure announcement to confronting Beijing.

"This is not just about confronting or taking on China. This is about providing an affirmative, positive, alternative vision for the world than that that is presented by China and, in some similar ways but also in some different ways, Russia," a senior US official told reporters ahead of the announcement.

"Until now we haven't offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business."

The announcement did not offer details on where the hundreds of billions of dollars for the B3W program would come from.

Xi Jinping, the president of China, launched the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative in 2013.

More than 100 countries have signed up to the scheme, which supports investment in ports, roads, railways and other infrastructure across Asia and into Europe and Africa.

Critics say the scheme is also an instrument for extending China's diplomatic and political influence by making developing countries dependent on Beijing's largesse.

The US official said until now, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the "lack of transparency, poor environmental and labour standards, and coercive approach" of the Belt and Road Initiative.

 G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States meet this weekend for the first time in nearly two years - AFP
G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States meet this weekend for the first time in nearly two years - AFP

He also said Mr Biden would also be pressing G7 leaders to make specific criticisms of China over the use of forced labour in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.

The Embassy of China said in a response to the comments: “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.

"There is only one system and one order in the world, that is, the international system with the UN at the core and the international order based on international law”.

The scheme is part of a raft of measures to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss adopted by leaders on Saturday.

The G7 also endorsed a Nature Compact to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and were expected to commit to almost halve their emissions by 2030 relative to 2010 at the Saturday session.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister and host of the summit, separately announced a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to tackle unsustainable fishing and marine pollution, reduce poverty, and protect and restore biodiverse, carbon-rich ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs.

In a statement Mr Johnson lauded the measures for driving "a global Green Industrial revolution".

"There is a direct relationship between reducing emissions, restoring nature, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth," he said.

“As democratic nations we have a responsibility to help developing countries reap the benefits of clean growth through a fair and transparent system."

George Eustace the environment secretary, wrote in the Telegraph on Sunday that G7 nations will also seek to cut to break the link between commodity production and the tragic loss of the world’s most important forests. G7 nations have said they will extend a 2009 commitment to provide $100 billion in climate finance by 2020 for another five years to 2025.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, on Friday criticised developed countries for failing to deliver on the promise.

Tensions with China have been a constant theme in talks at the three-day summit of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The British host's choice of "common values" and "open societies" as central themes underscore rising anxiety about the challenge to the West from Russia and China.

Invitations to the leaders of South Korea, India, Australia and South Africa, who joined the Cornwall summit as guests on Saturday, was also widely interpreted as an effort to rally democracies into an anti-China alliance.

The idea of creating a semi-formal "D-10" was quietly dropped ahead of the summit following opposition from Germany, France and Japan, who raised concerns about diluting the G7 and appearing openly hostile to Beijing.

Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, warned ahead of the summit that rising competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region was threatening global stability.

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