Qi Hang: Tracking China’s Role at COP24 and the Role of Businesses in Climate Action

I am Qi Hang, a senior majoring in Global Affairs, with a principal interest in the role and implication of a rising China in regional global governance issues, with interest in adjacent topics such as political economy, business impact and environmental risks and opportunities that China’s change brings. My capstone in particular, focuses on the economic risks of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and more importantly, looking at the idea of China’s image and incentive to spread positive influence. Previously, I have also worked on the sustainability and environmental aspects of the BRI, having published a couple of pieces on the shadow ecology of the BRI in exporting carbon to less developed countries.

I have two main research objectives for the COP24. During my stay in Katowice from 3rd to 7th December, I will focus on (i) observing the role that Chinese state will play in COP24, and (ii) the role of the private sector in driving change towards a low-carbon global economy, hopefully also with a focus on Chinese involvement.

On the first point of research, I will be working closely with Daniela Schulman from Yale College. While I initiate the research project in the first week, Dani will take over in the second. We plan to observe recurring language and themes in China’s national statement, plenary announcements and other state-level proclamations that we can gain access to. We plan look closely at China’s state-level involvement during COP24, and their role in pushing forward conversations, and whether they are taking on a stronger leadership role. Specifically, we are also interested in drawing comparisons between China’s commitment in domestic policies, and international policies regarding the BRI, measured by proxy using the language in China’s public declarations and statements. We would try to gain access to plenary sessions in between the side events to our greatest capabilities, and would actively look out for state-level declarations that are made available to the public, as well as informal conversations we hear during and between events. We would pay particular attention to the schedule of events organized by the Chinese delegation at the Chinese pavilion.

On the second point of research, while I focus on the role of private businesses in driving the development and adoption of sustainable technology, and pushing for greater profitability and thus economic co-benefits within existing sustainability frameworks, Dani will focus more on the role of NGOs and other civil society organizations (CSOs). We will still retain a focus on China within this research area, looking out for where Chinese non-state actors have a prominent and rising role to play. From the overview of the lineup of side events, it seems like there will be more China-centric side events focusing on the role of non-state actors during the week Dani is in Katowice. Nevertheless, I will still be able to get significant insight from side events from 3rd to 7th December. For example, “Innovative climate technologies and sustainable maritime transport for a climate resilient industry” on 5th December will likely involve conversations China’s BRI – the biggest infrastructure megaproject in recent history.

Ideally, we would like to publish daily blogs of around 500 words capturing in the insights gleaned each day. Some of the platforms we have considered range from professional ones such as China Dialogue and Eco-Business, to student-run online publications such as China Hands at Yale University. Should the plan to deliver real-time blog posts not work out, we aim to produce two longer weekly summaries from our time on the ground.

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