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People's Daily Online>>Special Coverage >> China Studies >> Cooperation >> Resources and Enviroment

China Experiments on Building Low-carbon Cities by Developing Low-carbon Economy

(People's Daily Online)

14:05, March 05, 2012

The so-called low-carbon city refers to a city based on low-carbon economy development model, with citizens' beliefs and behaviors of low-carbon lifestyle and municipal managerials' benchmarks and blueprints of a low-carbon society. Since early 2008, when the Ministry of Construction and the WWF (World Wide Fund) jointly chose Shanghai and Baoding in Mainland China as two pilots for the construction of "low-carbon cities", cities all over the country have been trying to seize the opportunity to take the lead for developing low-carbon cities.

In January 2011, the National Low-Carbon Economy Media Alliance released the National Evaluation System of Developing Low-Carbon Cities, and published the evaluation results at the end of the year, in order to promote the development of low-carbon economy and energy conservation work in China. On March 2 of the same year, Urban Development and Environment Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Hunan University and Economy Magazine jointly published The Green Paper 2011: Development of Low-Carbon Cities in China. This indicates that building low-carbon cities has become one of the major themes of urban development, which makes an experiment combining theories and practices by Chinese cities.

Background

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that between 1996 and 2005, the Earth's average surface temperature has increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius. Without effective intervention, the Earth's surface temperature may increase by up to 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Thus responding to climate change has become a major challenge facing mankind. Climate change has an impact on GDP growth. As estimated by Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist, a temperature rise of 5-6 degrees Celsius will lead to an economic loss equivalent to 5% to 10% of the global GDP. IPCC also pointed out that since the mid-20th century, most of the observed average temperatures has increased globally. The probability of warming caused by rising of anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations is up to 90%, among which carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas, accounting for 77% of the total emission and 63% of the warming effect.

Since 2007, China has become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (China's emissions of carbon dioxide was 6 billion tons in 2007, overtaking 5.8 billion tons in the United States as the first emitter in the world.) Since 2000, global carbon dioxide emission has increased by 1/3, among which 2/3 is from China. Climate change has brought great challenges to China's development, and has become a complex issue involved in political, trade, finance, foreign affairs and other fields. Low-carbon revolution brings about historic opportunities for the development of China. Low-carbon technologies, as the representative of the new technological revolution, have become a new growth point and the engine of economic recovery in the post-crisis era. Since president Obama took office in 2008, the United States announced investments of 150 billion dollars in new energy industry within 10 years to drive the U.S. economic recovery. South Korea also has a five-year plan of investments of 10.7 billion on developing the green economy to rank itself among the world's seven biggest green countries in 2020. China should also seize the opportunity to achieve a historic leap to develop its own model of building low-carbon cities.

Model of China's low-carbon cities

The Solar Model of Rizhao. Rizhao is called the "Solar City". Solar water heater coverage has reached 99%; solar photovoltaic technologies are used in public lighting equipments at traffic junctions, square park districts, street lights, lawn lamps, etc.. Rural penetration of solar water heaters has reached over 30%, and over 60,000 m2 greenhouses are using solar panels for heat preservation.

Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) Model of Shenyang. Shenyang is a pilot city of the promotion of GSHP technologies by the State Ministry of Science and Technology. GSHP technologies are used in large commercial buildings, supermarkets and hotels. In addition, energy used by small and medium-sized heating boilers has been substituted. By 2008, The total area GSHP technologies applied had been over 34,000,000m2; by 2010, the number had reached 65,000,000m2, which means 560,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

China Electricity Valley Model of Baoding. Baoding is one of the first low-carbon pilot cities selected by the State Council, and six low-carbon industrial systems have taken shape, including solar photovoltaic, wind power, efficient power-saving, new energy storage, power electronic devices, power transmission and power automation, with a number of independent innovation. Penetration of solar energy products in the CCP and government offices, enterprises, public service institutions and facilities has been 100%.

Priority to Public Transport Model of Hangzhou. Hangzhou claims to build leading "low-carbon industry" and "low-carbon city" as an important feature of its green city strategy. It pays particular attention to urban transport by taking lead in promoting “green travel” in the form of launching the campaigns of "City Buses Week" and "Car Free Day", the first of its kind in the country.

Energy Conservation Building Model of Shanghai. Through cooperation with WWF, Shanghai carries out a survey on energy consumption of its buildings, including office buildings, hotels, shopping malls and other large commercial buildings, and the results are published. To promote energy efficiency and operation capacity, energy audits are implemented, and property management personnel are trained. Shanghai is selected by WWF into the first "China low-carbon city development projects".

Forest City Model of Chongqing. Chongqing is the first "low-carbon city" that concerns not only reducing carbon dioxide emission but also increasing carbon dioxide absorption. A "Forest City" will expand green space and have an important effect on carbon fixation and oxygen release. Innovation on domestic carbon trading mechanism is also a path that "Forrest Chongqing" is exploring.

Summary

In sum, cities all over China are exploring on developing low-carbon economy and low-carbon cities. Major paths in developing low-carbon cities in the future include:

Firstly, effective financing models should be explored for a low-carbon economy with carbon trading mechanism innovation as a breakthrough. Carbon balance accounts should be set up to realize zero increment on carbon emissions. Mechanism of combining afforestation and carbon trade should be explored.

Secondly, effort should be made on four crucial industries, i.e. low-carbon energy, low-carbon lighting, low-carbon transport and low-carbon buildings. Proportion of the biomass energy, nuclear energy, wind and other renewable energy should be promoted; LED lighting should be promoted; new energy vehicles should be developed; energy conservation of buildings should be actively promoted so that energy conservation and emission reduction should be realized.

Lastly, with new technologies and applications, energy efficiency of traditional industries should be improved to lower emission of greenhouse gases. Obsolete technologies and equipment should be eliminated to improve production efficiency in high-emission and high-emission industries; at appropriate timing, application of Carbon Capture and Sequestration technologies (CCS) should be industrialized early.

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