"China is a real high-speed laboratory in the fight against climate change"
The main aim of AFD’s agency is to support China’s transition towards an economy that saves natural resources and emits less greenhouse gas. It gives priority to innovative projects that AFD will be able to reproduce in other countries, particularly in Africa. An interview with Sandrine Boucher, Director of AFD’s Beijing agency.
What is the aim of AFD’s presence in China?
Our main aim is to support China’s transition towards an economy that saves natural resources and emits less greenhouse gas.
Since the Beijing agency opened in 2004, we have financed 17 projects that contribute to the fight against climate change and to sustainable development.
This is the main area for Franco-Chinese cooperation that was defined when President Sarkozy visited China in November 2007 and was subsequently set out in several agreements signed between the French Ministry of Ecology and its Chinese partners.
Through the projects we finance, our aim is also to promote the emergence of Franco-Chinese partnerships that highlight French expertise and stakeholders in the green sector.
Finally, we give priority to innovative operations that bring about change and use techniques and good practices that can subsequently be reproduced, not only in China, but in other countries facing similar challenges.
Can you give us a few examples of the projects that AFD supports in China?
Our cooperation for the “rural carbon” project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in rural areas through carbon finance. It specifically involves projects to build biodigesters and a reforestation program in two of China’s poorest provinces, Yunnan and Sichuan.
This program has developed a methodology for bamboo replanting and for methane recovery using individual biodigesters.
One of our main common objectives is to capitalize on the experience and know-how acquired in order to study the potential of reproducing this initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The project to rebuild post-earthquake Sichuan is a particularly emblematic operation. This program comes in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale which struck China in 2008. AFD has supported the efforts made by Sichuan Province, the worst affected by the earthquake, by providing a USD200 million loan to help finance the reconstruction works, alongside the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Investment Bank.
Our program comprised two main components: a “biogas” component, which has now reached completion, has installed roughly 100,000 biodigester units in rural areas, with PVC covers being used for a large-scale program for the first time.
This new technique makes big improvements to biodigester efficiency and also extends their lifespan. These facilities provide families with enough gas to prepare their daily meals.
AFD’s financing has also served to rebuild basic infrastructure – water, sanitation, waste treatment, roads and bridges – and to make a practical construction guide for villagers affected by the earthquake. The guide contains energy efficiency and seismic resistance measures and was designed under a Franco-Chinese partnership between a French architecture firm and the Chinese design institute, Xinan.
Another flagship project is our cooperation for sustainable rural development, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon finance. In addition to the biodigesters, a reforestation program is being conducted in two of China’s poorest provinces, Yunnan and Sichuan. This operation is supported by the French Global Environment Facility (French GEF) and is being implemented with the official agency in charge of China’s Agenda 21 (ACCA21), which reports to the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology. It has developed a methodology for bamboo replanting and methane recovery from individual biodigesters.
One of our main objectives with ACCA21 is to capitalize on the experience and know-how acquired under this initiative in order to study its potential of being reproduced in other developing countries, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
AFD also conducts cooperation activities in the sustainable urban development sector. China’s efforts in this sector will be decisive for the future of the climate. Indeed, the number of new urban dwellers in China over the next 25 years is estimated at between 200 and 300 million. And yet there is currently no model for low-carbon cities. The construction of cities at such a pace and on such a scale has never been seen before in the history of mankind. AFD is participating in this process by financing a pilot program for thermal upgrading in public buildings in the metropolis of Wuhan in central China.
This project will save energy and reduce CO2 emissions in 30 public buildings and is in line with an innovative approach in China based on the energy performance contract. The principle is as follows: by reducing the energy bill, the project beneficiary will be able to repay the AFD loan. This type of mechanism can then be reproduced in other neighborhoods and other cities where there are also major needs for renovation.
What would be your assessment of these projects and what are the prospects for AFD in China?
In a relatively short period of time, we have managed to build a quality partnership with China, both at the central level with our partners in the ministries and at the local level with the provinces and municipalities where we operate.
Our activities have highlighted French know-how and expertise, which are highly appreciated. This constructive dialogue on concrete and innovative projects has helped establish a relationship of trust with China.
It promotes the adoption in the field of technical practices and solutions that aim to reduce its energy consumption, control its urban expansion and preserve its natural resources and its biodiversity. Helping China to meet its environmental challenges and move on to a low-carbon growth path contributes to preserving global balance.
Finally, China is currently a real high-speed laboratory in the fight against climate change and in sustainable development. By supporting it in this process, we can design new clean development models from which we can learn lessons. This helps to guide our international cooperation in other geographical areas.