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Since its launch in 2013, the Chinese Road and Belt Initiative (BRI) has grown into a platform for any countries and regions that wish to participate, with global connectivity as the orienting goal. However, since its inception, concerns over the BRI’s potential impacts on ecology, environment and resilience, as well as its implications for global climate change and sustainability, have gathered force. As this thematic issue goes to press, these already complex BRI issues have been compounded by challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether and how the BRI can meet these challenges are questions worthy of deep exploration. This emerging BRI scholarship studied various aspects of BRI activities. However, major knowledge gaps remain regarding BRI impacts on GHG emission and on climate adaptation and sustainable resource management more broadly. To this end, this thematic issue aims to contribute to deeper understandings of climate and environmental changes along the BRI by bringing together state-of-art research and views on climate change patterns, trends, risks, impacts and adaptation.