Shanghai leads China's fight of climate change and low-carbon development

18:12, December 15, 2009      

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For Kathy Tan, a Shanghai-based staff with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), a two-week visit to the Regional Climate Change Center in southern Zhejiang Province's Gutianshan Nature Reserve in late September offered her a unique opportunity to sharpen her understanding of climate change.

With other 11 HSBC Climate Champions selected from across Asia and Pacific region, Tan learned about the impact of climate change on the deteriorating environment and frequent extreme weathers of Shanghai. In the past few years, Tan felt the random occurrence like blizzard and torrential had increased in Shanghai.

The most inspiring part for her, however, was going into the forests to measure the chest perimeter of trees and calculate their carbon storage capacity, a major research focus of the newly built center coordinated by Chinese Academy of Sciences, HSBC and Earth watch Institute, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to nature protection.

"It has been a very rewarding time for me. I get to understand the science of climate change and participate in a meaningful initiative. When I go back to my community and my department, I will be able to articulate the real issues of climate change more convincingly and more importantly," Tan said.

Tan's experience reflects Shanghai's endeavors to tackle climate change at both the grassroots and policy-making levels.

Shanghai, where population stands at over 15 million, is believed to be the most vulnerable port city in China if damaging climate change is out of control.

Over the past fifty years, temperature in Shanghai has risen by2.35 degrees Centigrade, doubling the national level. Global warming has increased the frequency of heat waves in Shanghai, which aggravates the effect of heat island.

"Shanghai is a typical river city. We should examine the influence of global warming on its sea level, as it might lead to the intrusion of saltwater at the low lying areas. Shanghai has a long coastline and a number of wetlands and islands, which should be given particular attention to in the fight of climate change," observed Wang Xiangrong, a professor of ecology with Fudan University.

According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report on the Yangtze River basin's vulnerability and adaptation, climate change will continue to threaten Shanghai's economy and ecosystems, affecting its transportation, investment and insurance, tourism and biodiversity.

"As a river city, Shanghai should turn to both adaptation and mitigation measures to cope with climate change, " said Ren Wenwei, director of WWF's Shanghai office.

In view of the challenge of climate change and China's growing energy demand, WWF initiated a low carbon city program in Shanghai and north China's Baoding in early 2008.

The first-stage priority in Shanghai has been on increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation through its support of demonstration projects, such as the furniture giant IKEA.

Statistics suggest that the IKEA shopping center in Shanghai emits 6,000 tons of carbon every year. In response to its global energy saving strategy, the IKEA Shanghai branch set a target last year to remove its dependence on fossil energy and turn to 100 percent clean energy and raise its energy efficiency by 25 percent as compared with 2005.

For this purpose, IKEA (Shanghai) has replaced much of its power-wasting equipment with energy-saving ones like bulbs, air conditioners able to reprocess wasted heat and frequency-converting lifts.

On top of the low carbon model initiated by WWF, Shanghai government has also started to build the concept into its redesign of city development in an all-round manner.

An outstanding example is Huayuanfang Energy-saving Industrial Zone lying in the heart of Hongkou District, downtown Shanghai. Rebuilt from a previous auto factory, the industrial zone is home to a dozen of new energy projects, companies and platforms, like Shanghai Energy Efficiency Center and Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange.

Since its establishment in August 2008, Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange has helped transact over 70 projects involving carbon emission reduction technologies and clean development mechanism (CDM). It also set up a training center communicating climate change knowledge to other developing countries.

"As a major financial center, Shanghai has advantages in giving full play to the role of markets. Many companies in Shanghai, like Baosteel, hope to upgrade their industry patterns. If Shanghai develops a low-carbon path supported by a self-stimulating finance mechanism, it will set a model for the Yangtze River Delta and whole China," Ren said.

Shanghai World Expo to be held next year will be another stage showcasing the city's low carbon ideas and products, such as more than 1000 new energy vehicles, an integrated photovoltaic and a river water source heat pump. It is estimated that the carbon emission during the Expo will be reduced by up to 30 percent if all the facilities are put into use.

"Shanghai World Expo is the first low-carbon Expo in history. It will definitely make contributions in terms of the spreading of concepts, helping change people's behavior and development of science and technology. After the Expo, some low carbon technologies can be put into practice in the Yangtze River Delta, provinces outside the Delta, and even the neighboring countries," said Xu Ding, an official with the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.

Shanghai's actions correspond with China's latest commitment to a greener energy pathway. China announced on November 25 it intends to limit its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.

"We lagged behind the western countries in industrialization and information revolutions. But we are on par with them in developing a low carbon economy. Grasping the opportunity, Shanghai can lead the global development of low carbon cities, " Ren said.

Source: Xinhua
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