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PROJECT | Staff Reporter, China
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Six belt and road countries want renewables over coal: study

Citizens prefer solar and wind sources.

People living in six belt and road countries favour investment in renewable energy over the construction of coal-fired power plants, according to a study released by climate change group E3G.

The survey, which analysed responses from citizens in Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam, found that the majority selected renewables as the type of energy their respective countries should invest in to best support long-term development. Preference ranged from 61% in Pakistan to 89% in Vietnam.

In addition, citizens said that they felt that investing in solar power should be a high priority for the long-term development of their country, with solar receiving the highest positive responses of all energy options in all six countries.

“This polling provides clear evidence that the citizens of the Belt and Road Initiative countries prefer clean energy investment over coal. China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to make sure these demands are met,” Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the report found that there are sharp differences between citizens’ views of clean and dirty energy technologies. Coal was considered as the energy technology that respondents felt should be the lowest priority, ranking even lower than nuclear in four of the six countries.

“Citizens’ views towards foreign investment in coal see it as contributing to increased pollution and climate change. Coal was also more associated with corruption than renewable energy investments,” E3G highlighted in a statement.

In contrast, the top response from citizens towards wind and solar cited these energy sources as being good for the economy in the long term.

In all six countries, a substantial majority of citizens polled responded that they would be ‘very favourable’ towards foreign investment by governments, banks and companies when it is to support clean energy, with supporting ranging from 57% to 76%.

In contrast, all countries saw only a minority of citizens responded that they would be ‘very favourable’ towards foreign investment in fossil fuels (ranging from 13% to 32%). In Vietnam, a majority of respondents (52%) viewed foreign investment in fossil fuels unfavourably.

According to Mabey, the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing will provide an opportunity to signal an end for international support for coal investment, given that citizens across the member countries know that coal will only continue to exacerbate air pollution, climate change and corruption issues.

“The energy choices made now will have long-term impact on economic development and citizens' welfare. International investors, including actors under China's Belt and Road Initiative, should take note that citizens want clean energy not coal,” he added. “Local people know that this is the best way to create jobs and support long-term growth. Donor countries must do more to support governments to leapfrog to the clean energy future their people are asking for.” 

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