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RELEASE: WRI China Releases Findings to Develop Sustainable and Healthy Cities in China

BEIJING (November 19, 2014)—WRI China, Department of Climate Change of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC), School of Environment and Natural Resources of Renmin University, and Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences co-hosted a workshop on the Sustainable and Livable Cities Project Interim Findings & Low Carbon Development. The event was attended by Head of NDRC Department of Climate Change Mr. SU Wei, Deputy Director of NCSC Mr. ZOU Ji, WRI China Country Director Dr. LI Lailai and representatives from partner organizations. Drawing on research from the pilot cities of Qingdao and Chengdu, five papers were released covering perspectives on water, transport and energy. All these efforts are dedicated to push forward the transformation of urban development and explore the sustainable urbanization pathway in China.

“Building environmental-friendly and sustainable cities is the direction of the new urbanization mode in China, and will also be a key area for the thirteenth Five Year Plan,” Mr. SU Wei, Head of NDRC Department of Climate Change, pointed out. “It’s inevitable for Chinese cities to reduce urban energy consumption and foster low-carbon development in order to control greenhouse gas emissions in the process of urbanization and industrialization. Currently, low-carbon urban development in developing countries is booming, but they face challenges from planning, policy and technical aspects. The research on urban low-carbon development model has become an urgent need for developing countries, including China.”

The Sustainable and Livable Cities Project is an international initiative sponsored by Caterpillar Foundation and with support from NDRC to explore sustainable development pathways for cities. Officially launched in February 2012, the project has been conducted in five cities in China, India and Brazil. Chengdu and Qingdao have been selected as Chinese pilot cities. WRI China has partnered with research institutions and has been supported by Chengdu and Qingdao Development and Reform Commissions over the past two years. The pilot project focused on three areas: energy, water and transport. It created a low-carbon development blueprint for Chengdu, benchmarked and estimated the potential of energy efficiency improvement of urban wastewater treatment plants, and recommended policies to enhance transport demand management. In Qingdao, WRI China looked into energy use and the cost of water production from different water sources, identified the root cause of urban transport problems, and offered comprehensive countermeasures. Progress has also been made in Qingdao, including GHG Information Management and Policy Supporting System under the Qingdao-WRI partnership.

Speaking at the workshop, WRI China Country Director Dr. LI Lailai said, “We are very pleased to be releasing these interim findings that will provide guidance to develop more sustainable cities in China, and we look forward to our ongoing work with NDRC and the two pilot cities, under the sponsorship of Caterpillar Foundation. Based on the interim research findings, the project will further summarize a scalable development model to provide policy recommendations and technical support for the development of clean, safe and healthy cities in China.”

Caterpillar Vice President and China Country Manger CHEN Qihua said, “Developing a new type of urbanization will be a key driver of China's economic development in future. Caterpillar is actively involved in China's urban construction and advocates for the balanced development of cities and the environment. Led by WRI, this targeted project provides more scientific guidance and reference for urbanization in China and other emerging markets. Supporting this project is in alignment with Caterpillar's pursuit of sustainable development. "

The Sustainable and Livable Cities Project analyzes challenges and opportunities Chinese cities are facing in terms of water, transport and energy, and propose feasible solutions respectively.

Water: Water and energy are key factors for social and economic development. To satisfy the rising demand for water and higher water quality, urban water system needs to consume more energy for water supply, wastewater and sludge treatment. However, the energy consumption and associated GHG emissions caused by urban water system have long been ignored in China and have become an unavoidable environmental problem that could curb sustainable development of cities. The Sustainable and Livable Cities Project analyzed and evaluated the energy consumption, efficiency and cost of urban water system (water supply and wastewater treatment), suggesting that the water-energy nexus should be incorporated into the low-carbon development plan of cities so as to protect urban water environment, improve water supply security and reduce associated carbon emissions.

Transport: Transport problems are not just related to congestion and emission issues, but profound systematical challenges such as the disconnect between land-use planning and public transport planning, the limited funding for public transport, the lack of controls over car ownership and usage, and the poor integration among various transport modes in transit development. To cope with these problems, the Sustainable and Livable Cities Project suggests that cities integrate various resources beyond transport to include urban planning, policy making, investment, financing, industrial management, administrative enforcement, and to strategically coordinate all institutional departments related with transport. The “avoid-shift-improve” strategy should be taken based on people-oriented rather than car-oriented considerations in order to construct a comprehensive policy approach to mitigate urban transport congestion and emissions. Doing so can create a solid foundation for low-carbon and sustainable urban and transport development.

Energy: Cities contribute a lot to GHG emissions. For most Chinese cities, energy demand will continue to increase in coming years. The most direct way to control carbon emissions is to transform the energy structure, and manage the rapidly increasing energy demand from building and transportation sectors. The Sustainable and Livable Cities Project examined the overall citywide energy use and emissions and analyzed possible development pathways and scenarios to identify key influential factors of carbon emissions, so as to formulate feasible mid- and long-term low-carbon development strategies and short-term plans for Chinese cities.

“Chengdu is fulfilling its eco-civilization promises. WRI cooperated with local partners to research a low-carbon development blueprint and capacity building, greatly supporting Chengdu’s sustainable development. The smart strategies for private vehicle ownership and usage helped us understand the urgency of controlling the amount of private vehicles, and the policy recommendations make a very good foundation for our future implementation of Travel Demand Management policies.” said Mr. LI Feng, Division Chief of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection Office, Chengdu Development and Reform Commission.

Mr. LIN Qun, Deputy Division Chief of Energy Conservation Office, Qingdao Development and Reform Commission, also expressed similar appreciation, “Qingdao was selected among the 2nd batch of national low-carbon pilot cities in 2012. This was achieved upon the Qingdao Low-Carbon Development Plan Blueprint that WRI China and China’s Renmin University cooperatively researched. Today, we are pleased to see that WRI China will further help us with policy recommendations and pilot project support on water, transport, and energy in the future.”

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