Shanghai Expo sends low-carbon message

09:49, May 02, 2010      

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Shanghai's fresh morning air was all but surprising Saturday after a dazzling display of fireworks that brought the opening of the World Expo to a climax the previous night.

These fireworks, which manufacturers say produces little smoke and debris but is as colorful as traditional products, is one of the many green attempts that Shanghai organizers took pride in.

The 5.28-square-km Expo Park straddling the Huangpu River is full of zero-carbon myths: a London restaurant where plates are edible and cups are made out of ice; a green home that is heated by solar energy, recycles water, cooks with methane gas and inhales oxygen produced by plants atop its own roof.

Amid global concerns over pollution and climate change, and in an effort to live up to its theme of "Better city, Better life", Shanghai organizers have made audience seats out of deserted milk packages, handbags and tissues out of recycled paper, and used low-energy consuming LED screens, acoustic devices and electricity-powered vehicles in the Expo Park.

The Expo site also boasts a 4.7-megawatt solar power system, China's largest, with panels installed on Expo buildings.

To a large extent, the Expo has proven exemplary in the low-carbon drive, a new concept that has been on the lips of many ordinary Chinese people since the Copenhagen summit last year.

This is certainly a blessing.

Beware, however, just outside the Expo Park enclosures, there is still much room for us to promote the green concept and strive for a truly green city life.

One of the most visible disappointments is on the streets.

Friday's lavish Expo opening was followed by some chaos on Shanghai's roads.

Until after midnight, crowds of people, including Expo journalists, tourists and Shanghainese who were given a week-long holiday for the event, were seen within a radius of 5 km around the Expo Park, waiting for taxis.

As Bjarke Ingels sees it, the situation would be much better if they all go for a bicycle ride.

"When I was a kid and I saw pictures of China, I saw streets full of bikes and almost no cars," said Ingels from Denmark. "Now that I'm in China, I see streets full of traffic jams and no bikes."

Ingels, chief designer of the Danish Pavilion at the Expo, said he would like to remind the Chinese of how cool it is to ride bicycles, a fast, stylish and healthier way to travel.

The Denmark Pavilion encourages visitors to ride bicycles through its spiraling white venue with the beloved Little Mermaid statue at the heart.

China, once reputed as a country of bikes, has 192 million motor vehicles. Beijing alone has 4.13 million. Congestion is almost an all-time occurrence in the gridlocked capital.

Shanghai is more sober-minded in its restriction of the car fleet. The city imposed quotas on car ownership in 1986, according to which license plates are issued on a quota basis and are auctioned for an average of 40,000 yuan (5,300 U.S. dollars), half the price of a Volkswagen Jetta sedan.

Still, congestion is a bottleneck for the city with 18 million people and an estimated 1.6 million motor vehicles.

In response to the expanding fleet, deteriorating air quality and subsequent climate changes felt by many, cities have moved to promote the low-carbon drive, telling everyone to take the public transport, spare air conditioners as much as possible and buy low-emission furniture and home appliances.

Automakers have conjured up new, low-emission cars, some of which are on display at the Expo.

The Expo lasts only six months. But the low-carbon message it sends to the human race, however, will hopefully stay.

As far as the urban traffic is concerned, sometimes bikes and hikes can solve some of our problems.

Source: Xinhua


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