In an intricate dance of international collaboration, China is leveraging the services of a Canadian think tank to bolster its environmental credentials on the global stage. Funded by the Canadian government, the International Institute for Sustainable Development has assumed a role as the secretariat for a prominent Chinese environmental agency, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). This collaboration has raised eyebrows due to the involvement of one of Beijing’s influential Communist Party leaders and accusations of being a part of China’s extensive global influence network.
A Symbiotic Relationship
For the past four years, the International Institute for Sustainable Development has been at the heart of an unusual partnership between Canada and China. Acting as the international secretariat for CCICED, the think tank plays a significant role in managing international donations, executing Canadian-led projects, and appointing advisers for the Chinese agency. This partnership emerged in 2019, a pivotal period marked by strained Canada-China relations following the detainment of two Canadians in response to the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver.
The Complex Dynamics
CCICED, often hailed as an advisory body for Beijing’s policymakers, has been subjected to criticism for its role in advancing China’s global influence ambitions. Critics argue that the agency employs foreign environmentalists, governments, and their financial resources to enhance China’s green image. This endeavor is underpinned by the council’s chair, Ding Xuexiang, who holds significant political power within China’s Communist Party.
China’s Motivation and Canada’s Role
Given China’s pivotal role in addressing global climate change, some proponents of the collaboration stress the necessity of engaging with CCICED. With China being the world’s largest emitter of carbon emissions, its commitment to combating climate change is of paramount importance. However, skeptics contend that CCICED exploits the contributions of foreign entities to bolster its own reputation while diminishing their ability to voice criticism. The Canadian government’s longstanding financial support for CCICED has drawn criticism, with some questioning whether such aid remains relevant for the world’s second-largest economy.
Navigating the Climate Crisis
While both China and Canada fall short in addressing the pressing issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, their cooperation signifies an attempt to foster international diplomatic dialogue. China’s distinction as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions underscores the urgency of its commitment to green initiatives. Despite significant investments in renewable energy, China’s continued reliance on coal-fired power plants is concerning.
Fostering International Cooperation
Caroline Brouillette of Climate Action Network Canada defends the collaboration, arguing that international cooperation is indispensable in resolving the climate crisis. She emphasizes the importance of ongoing engagement, particularly during periods of heightened tensions, as demonstrated by the dialogue fostered through CCICED. This partnership, despite its complexities, contributes to a broader diplomatic discourse that is essential for combating climate change.
The collaboration between China and the Canadian think tank underscores the multifaceted nature of international efforts to address environmental challenges. While critics scrutinize the motives behind China’s engagement and question the continued relevance of Canadian funding, proponents argue that engaging with influential bodies like CCICED is essential to effectively combatting climate change.
As the world grapples with urgent environmental threats, this unique partnership serves as a reminder that global cooperation remains a cornerstone in achieving sustainable solutions for a greener future.