The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Power Projects: Insights into Environmental and Debt Sustainability

Erica Downs, Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University

12:00pm - 1:00pm | CSCC Conference Room, Perelman 418, 133 S. 36th St.

Why are China and Pakistan building so many coal-fired power plants as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) -- a component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) -- when Pakistan has tremendous wind and solar potential and untapped hydropower potential? My talk will explore the factors in China and Pakistan that have contributed to coal power plants accounting for nearly 75% of the new power generation capacity being developed as part of CPEC. I will also use the CPEC power sector projects to assess two of the main concerns that have been raised more broadly about the BRI: environmental and debt sustainability.


Dr. Erica Downs is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy focusing on Chinese energy markets and geopolitics. Dr. Downs has a distinguished career in Eurasian energy policy with a focus on China.  She has over 15 years of experience working in the public and non-profit sectors. She previously worked as a senior research scientist in the China Studies division of the CNA Corporation, a senior analyst in the Asia practice at Eurasia Group, a fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, an energy analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, and a lecturer at the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing, China. Dr. Downs has managed more than 50 publications in the areas of Chinese energy production and development and its geopolitical positioning. She holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. from Princeton University and a B.S. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee.