China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) promises to be the biggest infrastructure programme in history – and this is a study tour at scale. The Trans-Siberian Green Belt Road study tour will take us on a symbolic journey from Beijing, China to Irkutsk in Russia, exploring the risks and opportunities presented by infrastructure and forestry investment in these regions.
The BRI offers huge opportunities for development and closer cooperation between countries but also poses major environmental risks. Chinese investment in Russia’s forest sector is significant, but sometimes controversial. Around a third of Russia’s timber exports go to China, which is also investing in new pulp mills in Siberia and the Russian Far East – but there has been a strong public backlash against illegal and unsustainable logging linked to Chinese companies.
The study tour will kick off in Beijing, looking at how BRI-related investments can create opportunities for green development, and how to balance infrastructure and industrial development with ecological conservation. We will visit a forest protection project within the city to understand more about the concept of “ecological civilisation”.
Next, we’ll travel into the drylands through which much of the BRI passes, where China has planted hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees in an attempt to hold back the spread of the desert. We’ll see how tree plantations can help to restore land, combat desertification and sequester carbon, while also providing economic opportunities for local people and resources for industries along the route of the BRI.
Crossing into Russia, we’ll see how Chinese investment is changing the Russian forest industry. With colleagues from the Boreal Forest Platform, we’ll look at how forest management can be intensified sustainably through effective forest regeneration and proper management of secondary forests while preserving intact forest landscapes and areas of high conservation value.
The study tour will end up in Irkutsk on the shores of the Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world and the largest freshwater nature reservoir. We hope you can join us for this unforgettable journey of discovery and debate.
Co-organized by the New Generation Plantations and the Boreal Forest platforms
Co-hosted by the National Forest and Grassland State Administration of China, Mondi, Futuragene-Suzano, WWF-China, WWF-Russia