Park in Pudong, Shanghai

Sustainable Financing for Soil Remediation Projects in China and Beyond

This event showcased the most recent research emerging from IISD's joint project with the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) on financing soil remediation projects. 

October 19, 2021 11:30 am - October 21, 2021 1:30 pm GMT

(Open to public)

Sustainable finance has gained considerable traction in the finance industry in recent years, but a massive gap still exists in mobilizing adequate resources to address legacy and existing environmental and climate problems. One such example is the remediation of contaminated or otherwise degraded soil.

While maintaining healthy soil is crucial to tackling climate change, human activities—including impacts from climate change—are contributing to an increasingly alarming rate of soil contamination and degradation. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has erased years of development progress and resulted in major setbacks to all sources of finance for sustainable development.

As public budgets tighten, governments around the world are looking for opportunities to attract private capital participation to help address land remediation and subsequent redevelopment and productive use. The business case lies intrinsically in the value captured in property value increases and related business opportunities once remediation is complete. However, in cases where land value is lower and related revenue streams are uncertain, the case for private capital participation is less compelling. Governments, in this case, must fund the remediation through public budgets and then seek out opportunities to partner with private counterparties to use the land as “fit for purpose.”

How can traditionally non-bankable environmental projects, such as soil remediation, become worthwhile investments for holders of private capital? What legal and policy instruments are available to help maximize the value of sustainable finance vehicles in addressing environmental issues in practice? What are the key policy considerations government agencies and regulators should have in mind when designing and managing soil remediation projects? How can policy-makers ensure that the limited investments from the public purse are used optimally? In addition to limited financial resources, what are some other regulatory or technical bottlenecks that may hinder the soil remediation efforts?

These questions lie at the centre of a research project being jointly carried out by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA). With support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the objective of the project is to harness the full range of green finance approaches and vehicles to the task of funding remediated of contaminated soils in China. The research looked at several case studies of soil remediation projects in China and identified potential funding avenues, including blended finance options, especially in those areas most difficult to attract private sector funding.

The partners co-organized this virtual symposium on this topic from 19-21 October 2021. The goal of the event was to share the most recent research findings, engage in broader discussions with experts and practitioners in the field, and establish a community of global experts and practitioners where they can exchange experiences and discuss emerging sectorial trends.

The event took the form of three two-hour sessions spread over three days, with each day dedicated to a specific perspective.

Session One: Governance Perspective

Moderator: Hongqiao Liu, Journalist and China environment policy expert


  • Dimitri de Boer, Chief Representative for China, ClientEarth
  • Zhanfeng Dong, Deputy Director, Department for Environmental Policy, Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, Ministry of Environmental Protection (China)
  • Dietmar Müller-Grabherr, General Secretary, Common Forum on Contaminated Land
  • Steve Wolfson, Senior Attorney, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Session Two: Industry Perspective

Moderator: Hongqiao Liu, Journalist and China environment policy expert


  • Nikolai Friberg, Research Director for Biodiversity, Norwegian Institute for Water Research 
  • Arne Pettersen, Section Leader for Environmental Chemistry, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute 
  • Xiaoming Wan, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Hua Zhang, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Session Three: Financing Perspective

Moderator: Hongqiao Liu, Journalist and China environment policy expert


  • Thiago Chagas, Lead Legal Consultant, Climate Focus 
  • Ingvild Skumlien Furuseth, Research Assistant, Norwegian Institute for Water Research 
  • Kenneth Patterson, Director of the Regional Support Division, Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Lan Wang, Associate Professor of Law, East China Normal University
  • Chenghui Zhang, Former Director-General, Research Institute of Finance, Development Research Center of the State Council (China)