Increasing engagement of Chinese banks on No-Go commitment
On 10 December 2021, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, in collaboration with the China-based environmental think-thank Greenovation:Hub (G:Hub) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China, organized an online workshop to promote the integration of the “No-Go commitment” for World Heritage into the environmental policies of Chinese banks and financial institutions.
The workshop was a follow-up to the Extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in July 2021 in Fuzhou (China). In its Decision 44COM 7.2, the World Heritage Committee, welcomed the growing interest from the investment sector for the conservation of World Heritage properties and reiterated its request that all banks, investment funds, the insurance industry and other relevant private and public sector companies integrate provisions into their sustainability policies, to ensure that they are not financing projects that may negatively impact World Heritage properties and that these companies invest in subscribing to the “No-Go commitment”. This was also echoed in the Fuzhou Declaration adopted this summer, in which the Members of the World Heritage Committee called "for the full engagement of governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, private sector and other key stakeholders to protect the World Heritage sites and protect them against threats to cultural and natural World Heritage sites".
Over the past decade, China has substantially increased its lending and financing of large-scale infrastructure and development projects across the world through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China has also introduced several policy frameworks to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity such as the Ecological Redline Policy (ERP), which defines priority areas for ecological protection where industrial developments and extractive activities will be severely restricted or excluded. The concept of ecological redline resonates with the position of the World Heritage Committee that extractive activities are incompatible with World Heritage status.
The online workshop gathered more than 60 attendees, amongst whom were representatives from key Chinese financial institutions and companies, international banks and insurance companies, governmental authorities, individual experts, the Secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the UN Principles for Sustainable Investment (UNPRI).
The 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in 2022 in Kunming (China) will likely adopt the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and set the new global agenda to halt biodiversity loss. This will present a unique opportunity for Chinese banks and financial institutions to further strengthen their environmental commitments and announce to the international community their support for the “No-Go commitment” benefiting World Heritage properties.
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre thanks the Government of Flanders (Belgium) for their ongoing support in strengthening private sector engagement for the protection of natural World Heritage sites.