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D Magazine
Cities around the world are trying to adopt new measures to ensure that everything their residents need is available within a 20-minute walk or bike

Many of Dallas’s urban challenges can be summed up in a single term: land use. Whether we are talking about affordable housing or public transportation, income inequality or fixing streets, quality public schools or walkability, at its core, we are really always talking about land use.

Our massive investment in light rail doesn’t work? That’s because the city has developed with insufficient density around stations to make them useful. We can’t afford to fix the streets? That’s because our low-density development model means we have more street surface area than tax base to pay for it, and our highway system has made it easy for new investment to continually seek-out cheaper, under-developed locations outside the city. Our schools are underfunded? That’s because for 70 years land use decisions have allowed urban neighborhood to erode and an endless succession of competing suburbs to spring up to siphon off students, teachers, and taxes from the inner city. At the end of the day, all of Dallas’ urban problems are land use problems.

Which is why a new trend that is being adopted by a number of cities around the world caught my eye. It’s called the “20-minute neighborhood.” The concept is incredibly simple, and yet it promises to solve many of these problems listed above in one fell swoop. What if everything you needed from the city during your day-to-day life was located within a 20-minute walk or bike of your front door? We’re talking groceries, job, social centers, schools–everything. Twenty minutes away, tops. Sounds pretty convenient, right? It would be nice to walk to the grocery store, walk to pick up your kids from school, bike to a concert on a Friday night. But while 20-minute neighborhoods sound, at first, like convenient, fun places to live, their implications are much more profound.

That’s because the idea of 20-minute neighborhoods strike directly at the cause of so many urban issues: land use. What if cities began to regulate their land use so that every corner of a city was measured by their ability to ensure that basic daily needs could be met via a 20-minute walk? That’s the goal in Portland, which has set out to make it so 90 percent of Portland residents live in “20-minute neighborhoods” by 2030 as part of its climate action plan. The concept has been bouncing around for a long time. Back in 2010, The Atlantic looked at the effort not long after it was first introduced and pointed out that the idea was being tasked with taking aim at a whole host of urban challenges:

The 20-minute neighborhood plan is a part of Portland’s long-term strategy to manage the challenges that face many urban environments across the country, including rising energy costs, population growth, roadway congestion, and demand for expensive public transit to connect more and more distant suburbs.

As cities around the world create their own climate action plans to respond to the existential threat of global climate change, we’re seeing 20-minute neighborhoods pop up as part of that solution as well. Melbourne, Barcelona, London, and Paris all have some version of the 20-minute–or 15-minute, or “superblock”–as part of their short- to mid-term development goals.

What would such places look like? The Parisian plan sketches out a vision that would promote a hyper-local approach to all city planning:

Paris en Commun’s manifesto sketches out some details for what this future walkable, hyperlocal city would look like. More Paris road space would be given up to pedestrians and bikes, with car lanes further trimmed down or removed. Planning would try to give public and semi-public spaces multiple uses—so that, for example, daytime schoolyards could become nighttime sports facilities or simply places to cool off on hot summer nights. Smaller retail outlets would be encouraged—bookstores as well as grocery stores—as would workshops making wares using a “Made in Paris” tag as a marketing tool. Everyone would have access to a nearby doctor (and ideally a medical center), while sports therapy facilities would be available in each of the city’s 20 arrondissements.

To improve local cultural offerings, public performance spaces would be set up, notably at the “gates” of Paris — the large, currently car-dominated squares around the inner city’s fringe which once marked entry points through the long-demolished ramp
Dennis Pieprz
stanbul is a teeming city of striking contrasts. Its setting on the Bosphorus—a natural strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara—places it between continents, between histories, and between cultures. And this is exactly how I experienced the city: some neighborhoods felt like the heart of Cairo; other areas called to mind Paris, or even Rome. On Istiklal Street (shown above) you can feel the shape of the city as the open, slightly inclined pavement bends toward the sea. It’s thrilling, full of valuable lessons for urban designers and placemakers.

This is a street just off Taksim Square. It’s quieter, but equally interesting. The concrete pavers go from building face to building face. This flattened surface created a welcome feeling for pedestrians. The odd car seemed quite comfortable as it slowed down, navigating groups trying to decide which restaurant to try. A mix of residential, office, and commercial buildings make the street active and vital throughout the day and evening.

Across the Golden Quarter waterway from Istiklal Street, a local friend took me to the Eminonu quarter, where we were engulfed by masses of people moving through tight passageways, shopping at every conceivable kind of store. Suddenly there’s a break in the enclosed street, and I am in front of the portal to the Egyptian Bazaar.

As a kind of covered street, the L-shaped bazaar fits seamlessly into the network of markets and streets nearby. At this intersection, you can carry on forward through the arched space of the market street or head back into the city. I am drawn to this granite column anchoring a corner shop jammed with every spice imaginable.

It was mid-December when I visited Istanbul. I came across a section of the market devoted to light decorations. In the slightly darkened street sat thousands of glowing objects for sale. The magical radiance transformed the space for a moment as I moved along to the next array of stalls and vendors.

One of the most remarkable places I saw was the Suleymaniye Mosque complex, built by the architect Mimar Sinan between 1550 and 1557. Located on a hill, the mosque comprises a number of institutions, including four madrasas, or schools. The domes of the learning places step down the hill, their chimneys forming a geometric construct that contrasts with the informal market streets nearby and the modern city beyond.

The schools are organized around courtyards and stepped gardens. Taking advantage of the slope, each classroom has an outdoor terrace platform where people can meet, quietly read a book, or work on their laptop. The double arches and vaults provide a cloistered protection from the harsh sun and create a beautiful place to study in the glowing light.

One evening, I discovered a roof terrace with a remarkable view toward the Suleymaniye Mosque, with the Hagia Sophia in the distance. These centuries-old complexes are lit up each night and, in the gloaming, mark the horizon of a city where many worlds coexist: East and West, religious and secular, ancient and modern.


urbanize.LA
Wider sidewalks and new street trees are in the works for the iconic 1.3-mile corridor.

A new website offers a look at design concepts for the Hollywood Walk of Fame's new master plan - a core component City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell's Heart of Hollywood initiative.

The Walk of Fame, established nearly 60 years ago, spans approximately 1.3-miles along Hollywood Boulevard and a short stretch of Vine Street. Though the corridor is one of the biggest tourist draws in Southern California - evidenced by throngs of pedestrians, street performers, and costumed characters - its built environment has often underwhelmed visitors.

“The Walk of Fame Master Plan is the signature project of my ‘HEART of Hollywood’ initiative, and the concept plan is just the first step,” said O’Farrell in a statement. “We are working to update the Walk of Fame in a balanced, holistic, cohesive way. As this evolves, we will keep building a sense of consensus and collaboration around various ideas. I encourage Hollywood stakeholders to view the concept plan in its entirety, provide feedback, and join us throughout this process.”

O'Farrell, who represents much of Hollywood, has pushed to use the remainder of the 13th Council District's allocation of CRA/LA excess bond proceeds to fund the new master plan for the Walk of Fame as well as a first phase of improvements. Architecture and planning firm Gensler has been tapped to lead the effort, with also includes civil engineering firm DCA, landscape architecture firm Studio MLA, and various city departments.

The Walk of Fame serves as the central pedestrian spine of the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District, comprised of 102 historic Spanish Colonial and Art Deco buildings - many of which maintain a high degree of integrity on their upper floors. But the corridor is best known for the thousands of terrazo stars which commemorates luminaries of the entertainment industry.

While the Walk of Fame's architecture and its iconic stars remain a draw, its streetscape has worn down over the decades, and repairs to its sidewalks have lagged. Among various shortcomings, the project team has noted that the Walk of Fame suffers from a lack of unified signage, tree wells, and street furnishing along Hollywood Boulevard. And while a new guide published by the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering provides direction for future repairs, the Heart of Hollywood takes the effort a step further.
An "enhanced complete street" concept has emerged as the favored alternative for the project, which, if implemented, would remove street parking and some automobile travel lanes to allow for wider sidewalks along the Walk of Fame. The reclaimed space could be used for new amenities such as sidewalk dining, performance areas, seating and other furniture, playgrounds, and areas for street vendors. Plans also call for five new event plazas located at key sites along the Walk of Fame - including the Pantages Theatre and the Hollywood Highland Center - which could temporarily be closed to automobile traffic with removable bollards.

These improvements would be supplemented by the addition of new curb bulb outs - shortening the distance of street crossings - and raised scramble crossings to make pedestrians more visible to approaching vehicles.

The "enhanced complete street," concept is one of several alternatives considered for the master plan. Other options include a similar, but less ambitious sidewalk expansion, or in the most modest concept, selective street extensions near major landmarks such as the Pantages Theatre. Planners also considered closing the street to cars entirely, converting the Walk of Fame to a pedestrian promenade, but feedback garnered through a series of focus groups and open house meetings favored maintaining vehicle access.

Hollywood Boulevard's Art Deco heritage is also set to be expressed in the new master plan in the form of unified signage and potentially decorative patterns in crosswalks, as seen in conceptual renderings.

Kim Westerman
Today marks a historic moment for The Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, as the Presidio Tunnel Tops project was formally launched this morning with a “groundmaking” ceremony to kick off the construction phase of this highly anticipated phase of the development of The Presidio.

Set to open in 2021, the ambitious Tunnel Tops project, designed by James Corner Field Operations (the firm behind New York’s High Line), will create an entirely new 14-acre park atop two freeway tunnels just east of Crissy Field. The new multi-use public park will have unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge and, more importantly, it will re-connect the San Francisco waterfront to the Presidio Main Post, a passage that was broken some 80 years ago when Doyle Drive was built to create access to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Corner says, “This has been an extraordinary experience to create a new green centerpiece for the Presidio in the context of the larger Bay Area and the world-class city of San Francisco. The iconic setting is perfect for transforming highway infrastructure into a vibrant new public space.” The final design was informed by the input of more than 10,000 community members to ensure that residents would be happy about the ways in which their neighborhood would be transformed.

Funding efforts have been led by campaign co-chairs Lynne Benioff, Mark Buell, and Randi Fisher, along with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

When Tunnel Tops opens in 2021, it will include gardens with native vegetation, walking pathways, scenic overlooks, a campfire circle, picnic areas, and a three-acre interactive play area designed to connect urban kids with nature. The hope is that this “Youth Campus” will encourage environmental stewardship among the city’s youth population, setting in motion education and awareness about the state of our immediate environment and our planet, in general.

Younger kids will have access to “The Outpost,” a multi-sensory, inquiry-driven space for place-based learning and adventure. Geared toward toddlers up to age 13, The Outpost will also offer activities for teens involved in the youth mentorship programs run by the Crissy Field Center.

The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s most exciting neighborhoods right now. It has always been rich in history and a compelling area for hiking and other outdoor activities, but now it’s a full-blown destination for both day-trippers and visitors from afar, with excellent restaurants, museums, a new visitor center, a free shuttle, a brand-new theatre, and some of the most exciting programming in any U.S. city. Tunnel Tops will also be an impressive green space in the heart of urban San Francisco.

The park has 12 trails for hiking and biking, from wooded paths to coastal cliffside walks, each offering a different ambiance, length, and level of difficulty.

Two hotels — The Inn at the Presidio and The Lodge at the Presidio — are affordable and comfortable, a rarity in San Francisco these days.

To learn more about Tunnel Tops or to contribute during its construction phase, visit the project’s website.

Alabama DOT
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has selected 20 projects—for highway, bridge, port and rail improvements—to share $856 million in the latest round of its highly competitive INFRA grant program.

The department picked the winners for this year’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America funding from a wide field. Announcing the 2019 selections on July 25 at DOT headquarters, Secretary Elaine Chao said that almost 200 applications were submitted, seeking a total of $9.8 billion.

The largest awards, $125 million, went to Alabama DOT to help finance construction of a new bridge for Interstate 10 over the Mobile River channel; and to Maryland DOT to increase the vertical clearance of the Howard Street rail tunnel in Baltimore, to permit more double-stack freight rail cars to pass through.

Those two were among 10 winners in the large-project classification, with a minimum project size in most states of $100 million and grants of at least $25 million.

Another 10 projects were selected in the small-project competition, receiving awards of $5 million or more. The largest small-project grant was $13.1 million to the South Dakota DOT, for a bridge replacement over the Missouri River in Pierre.

The grant program was established in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST Act. In fact, the Obama administration, which was in office when the FAST Act was signed, dubbed the program FASTLANE grants, for the first awards, announced in 2016. That stood for a mouthful of a title: Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies

When the Trump administration took office, it renamed the program INFRA. It also altered some of the selection criteria and has put more emphasis on projects in rural areas. The FAST Act mandated that at least 25% of the program’s annual award dollars go to rural projects but the Trump administration has gone far above that.

Chao noted that 54% of the dollars in the latest batch of INFRA grants went to projects in rural areas, a 10 percentage point increase over the 2018 round’s rural share.

Supplement to Core Funding

State DOTs scored big in this year’s INFRA competition, winning eight of the 10 large-project grants and three of the 10 small-project grants.

Joung Lee, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials director of policy, said in an interview that states see INFRA grants as a supplement to the core highway funding, which accounts for more than 90% of total federal highway dollars and is distributed to states by formula.

Nevertheless, INFRA is a desirable supplement. Lee, who attended the DOT event, says, "Given the [transportation infrastructure] investment backlog, you're going to look at anything that could be a possibility to help."

He notes that discretionary grant programs sometimes can make funding available and get projects underway more quickly than with formula funding—“if you’re able to win the award.”

The selections for the INFRA grants technically were DOT proposals. Congress has 60 days to reject any of DOT’s choices for the grants; otherwise they become final after that point.

Although DOT made its announcement on July 25, senators and House members from the winning states or congressional districts released the news about their home-state projects several days earlier, after DOT had notified them of their decision.

GAO Report

The latest INFRA awards were announced a week after the Government Accountability Office released a report that found DOT’s review process for the grants “lacked consistency and transparency related to following up with applicants and evaluating applications.”

Specifically, GAO said DOT found that 97 applications lacked sufficient information for the department to determine whether a project was eligible for INFRA. The report said DOT asked 42 of those applicants for more information. But it added, “DOT did not sufficiently document why it followed up with certain applicants over others.”

In addition, GAO stated that DOT evaluated applications using “merit criteria’" such as promoting economic vitality, giving each project a score.

But the report said DOT staff forwarded to Chao information on all 165 projects that were statutorialy eligible for a po
David F. Smith/AP
Urbanites who battled the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1960s saved some neighborhoods—but many highways did transform cities.

In 1955, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads released the “Yellow Book”—a national blueprint to build out the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System. The series of maps laid out the proposed routes for this massive project, which was set to be completed by 1969.

In the beginning, things went smoothly enough: Highway engineers encountered little opposition from communities in the rural areas. But then builders tried to expand the network into major cities—and the age of the freeway revolts began.

Most famously, in New York City the writer and urban visionary Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses, rallying community opposition to his grand plan for the 10-lane Lower Manhattan Expressway that would have destroyed parts of Little Italy and SoHo. Similar eruptions of resistance stymied highway builders in many other cities. In the greater Washington D.C. metro area, lawsuits filed by residents not only canceled some highway construction, but diverted part of Interstate 66 connecting D.C. to Virginia from its original route. One (brief) survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation between 1967 and 1968 recorded 123 separate highway revolts and road-related protests.

A recent working paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia looks at how the freeway revolts shaped the current Interstate map—and how that, in turn, shaped today’s cities. Using data on U.S. cities and neighborhoods from 1950 to 2010, economists Jeffrey Brinkman and Jeffrey Lin also detailed the negative local effects of the highways that did get built—something that Lin says often gets overlooked by policy makers.

“Highways allowed better transportation between cities and more people access to opportunities in cities—but there are costs,” he tells CityLab. “I think you really need to balance the benefits at a national scale against these local effects.”

The report measures the growing influence of public resistance during the Interstate-building era. The closer to city centers highways were planned, and the later they were built, the less they resembled the routes mapped out in the Yellow Book. Those in the suburbs were more likely to be built according to the original plan. And while freeways constructed between 1955 to 1957 most resembled initial plans, by 1993, the correlation between planned and built highways fell from 0.95 to 0.86, falling especially low among routes in neighborhoods near city centers.

The paper also puts the success of the freeway revolts into perspective. Despite celebrated wins like the unbuilt Lower Manhattan Expressway, the Interstate system was still constructed mostly according to plan, says Lin. The revolts did help usher in federal policy changes that prioritized local input, historical preservation, and the environment. But in most cities, highways came anyway. And when they did, they disproportionately affected those living in communities of color and neighborhoods with lower education attainment: By the mid-1960s, white neighborhoods with more affluent, better educated residents had more success putting new policies to use and keeping highways at bay.

Those protests initially came as something of a surprise to highway planners, state officials, and even mayors, who figured highways would be universally welcomed as revitalization tools for struggling downtowns. “Among economists, it had generally been thought that highways affected cities by reducing commuting costs, which improved accessibility,” Lin says.

But as the report details, that benefit was enjoyed mostly by those who lived outside the city, helping to spur further suburbanization. Inside cities, commuting benefits were eclipsed by the negative effects on the quality of life for those who lived near freeways.
OMA and Laboratorio Permanente
OMA and Milan-based Laboratorio Permanente have won a competition to transform two abandoned railway yards in Milan into eco parks that will act as “ecological filters” for the car-centric city. Titled Agenti Climatici (Climatic Agents), the master plan would use the natural, air-purifying power of plants and the filtering capabilities of water to clean and cool the environment while adding new recreational spaces for the public. The project is part of a larger effort to redevelop disused post-industrial areas around the periphery of the city.

The Agenti Climatici master plan addresses two railway yards: the 468,301-square-meter Scalo Farini on the north side of Milan and the 140,199-square-meter Scalo San Cristoforo on the south side of the city. The designers have designated Scalo Farini as the “green zone” that will consist of a large park capable of cooling the hot winds from the southwest and reducing air pollution. Scalo San Cristoforo has been dubbed the “blue zone” after the designers’ plan to turn the railway yard into a linear waterway that will naturally purify runoff and create cooling microclimates.

“In a moment of dramatic environmental transformation and permanent economic uncertainty, our priorities have changed,” said OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “The most valuable currency is no longer ‘brick’ — the built — but rather the climatic conditions that cities will be able to provide and ensure for their citizens. The city of the 20th century, with its high energy consumption, must be overcome by reconsidering the principles that have marked urban development since the classical era.”

For adaptability, only the public elements of the Farini park will be fixed — including the waterways, greenery and bridges — while the location of the buildings and their programming will be contingent on the city’s future economic development. The master plan also calls for Milan’s longest expressway bicycle lane alongside a new tram line and metro stations.



Xinhua News Agency/Newscom
Chinese leader promises more transparency and funding opportunity in $900-billion program

Chinese President Xi Jinping surprised an audience of world leaders as he outlined China's decision to modify the Belt and Road Initiative in crucial areas including: project selection, environmental risk assessment and financing. He was speaking at the second Belt and Road Forum, which convened April 26 in Beijing.

China's BRI features ambitious plans to build modern-day Silk Road connectivity projects, such as seaports, airports, railways and roads across 60 countries covering all continents at a colossal cost of $900 billion. Developing countries have offered some support, but the scheme has been widely criticized on a number of counts in developed countries.

The U.S., Germany, France, Australia and Japan have been especially critical, pointing to a lack of transparency and a refusal to share business opportunities with non-Chinese companies.

At the Forum's open session, Xi signaled a course correction. “Everything should be done in a transparent way, and we should have a zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.

The Chinese President tried to counter criticism that nearly 90% of the businesses emerging out of the Belt and Road program went to Chinese companies and there was little for foreign firms to share. "The Belt and Road is not an exclusive club," Xi said at the gathering.

Signs of China’s readiness to modify the infrastructure development program began to emerge in recent months after it allowed close ally, Pakistan, to shelve an electricity project, and accepted a 30% cost reduction in a high-speed rail project in Malaysia. In effect, Malaysia had closed down the project for several months and eventually forced China to renegotiate the terms.

“Xi Jinping is trying to deliver a readjusted BRI, providing more opportunities for non-Chinese companies to participate, delivering greener and better quality projects, being more attentive to their local economies in humane impact as well as to the recipient country’s debt sustainability,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Professor at the Dept. of Government and International Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde backed efforts by China to improve and refine the program but asked for more changes particularly where it comes to rules for procurement of construction equipment from across the world.

She said the BRI could “benefit from increased transparency, open procurement with competitive bidding and better risk assessment in project selection.”

Financing challenges

Xi invited foreign and private-sector partners to help fund China-backed infrastructure projects. Earlier offers restricted project financing only to Chinese banks and agencies. In the past, non-Chinese banks and lending agencies have been closed out.

Critics have also slammed BRI for opacity and for saddling recipient countries with costly loans that they cannot repay. For example, Sri Lanka recently was forced to sign away commercial control of its Hambantota port for 99 years because it could not reply Chinese loans.

The Chinese president said "We also need to ensure the commercial and fiscal sustainability of all projects so that they will achieve the intended goals as planned.” He went on to say that his government will now offer a “debt-sustainability framework” to encourage compliance with international standards in infrastructure contracting.
VA and MIR
The world’s longest single-mast, asymmetric cable-stayed bridge has broken ground in northern Taiwan. Not only engineered for minimal visual impact, the bridge is also designed to host a wide range of transit options. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the world record-breaking Danjiang Bridge will span approximately 3,000 feet across the mouth of the Tamsui River. The structure’s single-mast design is also meant to minimize site impact to the riverbed as part of an effort to protect the estuary’s ecosystem and nature reserve.

Supported by a single 656-foot-tall concrete pylon, the Danjiang Bridge will connect Bali district and Tamsui district in New Taipei City while improving accessibility between Taipei and Taoyuan International Airport, and will also help reduce traffic in the area by an estimated 30 percent. Along with Sinotech Engineering Consultants and Leonhardt, Andrä and Partner Beratende Ingenieure, Zaha Hadid Architects was approached to design the project after winning an international design competition in 2015 with their proposal for a sleek and minimalist bridge. The proposed bridge includes dedicated lanes for high-occupancy vehicles, motorized vehicles, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians. Bicycle racks and benches will also be installed at intervals across the bridge.

Since the estuary has long drawn locals and tourists alike who flock to the coast every day to watch the sun setting over the Taiwan Strait, it was imperative that the slender bridge minimize its visual impact so as not to obstruct views from popular viewing points along the river bank. The bridge is also designed to minimize environmental impact and to accommodate a potential future expansion of the Danhai Light Rail network across the Tamsui River.

The Danjiang Bridge has a construction schedule of 68 months and a budget of NT $12.49 billion (U.S. $405.2 million). The project is slated to open in 2024.



RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a colossal infrastructure plan that could transform the economies of nations around the world. But with its focus on coal-fired power plants, the effort could obliterate any chance of reducing emissions and tip the world into catastrophic climate change.

hina’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, has been described as the most ambitious infrastructure project in history. It is a plan to finance and build roads, railways, bridges, ports, and industrial parks abroad, beginning with China’s neighbors in Central, South, and Southeast Asia and eventually reaching Western Europe and across the Pacific to Latin America. The more than 70 countries that have formally signed up to participate account for two-thirds of the world’s population, 30 percent of global GDP, and an estimated 75 percent of known energy reserves.

The first phase — of transport and energy infrastructure and seaports — will enable a level of industrial development and economic integration that Beijing hopes will generate new markets for Chinese companies and create a Chinese-dominated network of countries, tied into China’s economic and industrial realm. If successful, it would create a sphere of technological, economic, diplomatic, and strategic power big enough to challenge that of the United States.

BRI has the potential to transform economies in China’s partner countries. Yet it could also tip the world into catastrophic climate change.

Speaking at a meeting in San Francisco in September, Nicholas Stern, the prominent British economist, laid out his concerns: “The more than 70 countries that are signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said, “have an average GDP of around one-third of that of China. If they adopt China’s development model, which resulted in a doubling of China’s GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions in the first decade of the century, it would make the emissions targets in the Paris Agreement impossible.”

While China has imposed a cap on coal consumption at home, its coal and energy companies are on a building spree overseas.

Just building the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will absorb massive amounts of concrete, steel, and chemicals, creating new power stations, mines, roads, railways, airports, and container ports, many in countries with poor environmental oversight. But more worrying still is the vision of industrial development to follow, and the energy that is planned to fuel it. While China has imposed a cap on coal consumption at home, its coal and energy companies are on a building spree overseas.

Chinese companies are involved in at least 240 coal p