Environmental Governance of a Belt and Road Project in Montenegro – National Agency and External Influences

Activity: Talk or presentationConference PresentationsResearch

Johanna Coenen - Speaker

Jens Newig - Coauthor

Patrick Meyfroidt - Coauthor

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to increase trans-continental connectivity and cooperation mainly through infrastructure investments and trade. On the one hand, the globally unparalleled initiative is expected to foster economic growth, but on the other hand, it can have substantial environmental implications. The BRI creates new challenges and opportunities for environmental governance as new actor constellations emerge in BRI host countries to plan and construct large-scale infrastructure projects. Although China has outlined its vision of building a “green Belt and Road”, it remains unknown how this ambition affects projects on the ground.

As an example of a BRI project with potentially immense environmental effects, we present a case study of the Bar-Boljare highway in Montenegro. We elucidate the complex web of actors and contractual arrangements involved, and demonstrate how domestic decisionmaking in the field of environmental governance is affected by internal and external pressures to safeguard the environment. Based on interviews with key stakeholders, we illustrate the role of actor networks, institutional set-ups, and international standards in environmental governance of the highway project in the aspiring EU member state in the Western Balkans. This article contributes towards a better understanding of China’s growing importance as global actor and increasingly active role in environmental governance, and what this means for Europe. The case may be seen as exemplary for a larger set of BRI projects where geographically, socially and institutionally distant actors influence environmental governance in BRI host countries.


Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance - 2021


Event: Conference