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China-led AIIB targets 50% green investment by 2025

Coronavirus recovery set to dominate near-term funding needs

Workers install solar panels at a residential home in a village in Dongying, Shandong province,   © Reuters

BEIJING -- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank aims to have renewable energy projects and other efforts to address climate change make up at least half of its financing approvals by 2025, the bank's president said Wednesday.

"Our ultimate goal is to contribute to economic growth and social progress that is inclusive and sustainable," Jin Liqun said at a news conference ahead of the China-led institution's fifth anniversary and the start of his second term at the helm.

Demand for financing green projects looks poised to swell in the coming years as Japan, China, European countries and others seek to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions within the next few decades.

Jin said the AIIB will expand funding for renewable energy such as solar and wind, and also cited improving energy efficiency as an important goal. Jin said the bank is not considering participating in nuclear projects.

The AIIB will increase support for social infrastructure such as health and education as well, looking to ramp up financing of data infrastructure amid the digital revolution, broadening its scope beyond traditional projects like trains, roads and ports.

The institution has approved 108 projects over the five years since its January 2016 launch, with a value of $22 billion. The total has jumped by about $10 billion over the past year, with coronavirus-related funding making up most of the increase.

Jin Liqun, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, addresses a news conference Wednesday ahead of the bank's fifth anniversary. (Photo by Iori Kawate)

The AIIB has established a $13 billion funding facility to support economic recovery in developing countries and has approved $7 billion in financing through this framework so far.

The bank expects to provide about the same amount of financing this year as in 2020, Jin said. Responding to the pandemic is likely to remain a main theme this year, with green investment positioned as a medium-term strategy.

The AIIB must prepare financial support to low-income countries buying coronavirus vaccines, Jin said.

China holds a roughly 30% voting stake in the AIIB, more than any other country and enough to grant it veto power over major proposals such as capital increases.

The bank had 103 member countries at the end of 2020, up from the initial 57. About half are outside Asia, in such regions as South America and Africa. Major European economies have also signed on, though Japan and the U.S. have not.

South Asia is the AIIB's top funding target by region, with $8.7 billion in projects, followed by Southeast Asia and West Asia at $3.5 billion each. Eastern Europe has received the most investment of any non-Asian region, though the total comes to just $800 million.

The broad agreement on an investment deal reached by the European Union and China last month is a very important step that will benefit the AIIB, Jin said.

When the AIIB first launched, many critics saw it as just a tool of Beijing's for financial dominance. But Jin, who has led the institution from the beginning, has been praised for his sound management.

The AIIB has raised cash independently through bond issues, selling $2.5 billion in dollar-denominated debt in its first float in May 2019 and later offering yuan- and pound-denominated debt.

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