Going green comes at a price

13:49, January 20, 2011      

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Global policymakers should learn from China's endeavor to promote cleaner and lower-carbon cities, which have been disputed as costly testing grounds for emerging clean-energy technologies, the World Bank said in a report Wednesday.

China has launched over 100 eco-city projects, big and small, in many local urban areas in recent years, which aim to introduce new standards, technologies, and low-carbon lifestyles, the World Bank said in a press release Wednesday.

"Addressing the environmental sustainability of cities is a critical development challenge facing China right now - not only locally but also in terms of Chinese cities' global carbon footprint," Axel Baeumler, the World Bank's senior infrastructure economist, said in the press release.

The bank did a case study on Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project, a cooperative venture between Chinese and Singaporean governments to house 350,000 residents on the outskirt of the northern port city.

While the project is unique in that it set explicit sustainability targets for 2020, the bank noted that, in implementation, it faces multiple challenges, which can have implications for other similar projects.

One of them is to ensure the developments remain affordable and socially inclu-sive.

Many emerging eco-cities in China have proven very costly to build and have become both experimentation labs and cash cows for some foreign new-energy companies, according to a report by China Real Estate Business newspaper.

In Caofeidian Eco-City in Tangshan, Hebei Province, there are three different kinds of wind- and solar-powered street lamps produced by three different companies in just one location, the newspaper reported.

The local government invested an estimated 97.7 billion yuan ($14.84 billion) in 2009 in the Caofeidian project, designed to house one to 1.2 million residents, while the total cost for the Tianjin program is still incalculable, according to the World Bank report.

The World Bank warned that the Tianjin project risks "implementing financially unconstrained investment plans, especially for infrastructure, which could significantly impact the total cost of the project."

Ahead of the ongoing summit between President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama in Washington, US and Chinese companies reportedly signed a number of multi-billion-dollar deals on clean energy Wednesday. Among those were Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy and Hebei-based ENN Group, which have agreed to collaborate on the development of technologies to build greener cities.

ENN, a natural gas provider, started developing on a small-scale, eco-city in Hebei last year, which will serve as a platform to demonstrate its own green energy tech-nologies.

Source: Global Times
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