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Our low carbon tour of Chinas cities

14 November 2011
Our low carbon tour of Chinas cities

By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. 


Cities are where most human economic activities take place; the physical location where State policy is implemented and development goals achieved.

According to Urban Blue Book 2010, issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Science, during the 12th Five Year Plan period, China is expected to carry out more large-scale urbanization, with an annual increase of 0.8% to 1.0%. By 2015, urbanization in China will reach 52%.

But since the 11th Five Year Plan, the State has set new strategies and targets for economic development, energy-saving and carbon-reduction. Therefore, China’s cities are on top of a multitude of tasks: to meet the energy-saving and carbon-reduction targets in the national strategy, to maintain economic steady growth and to ease the increasing prominent contradictions caused by urbanization between supply and demand in housing, transportation, environment, sanitation and other infrastructure.

So then, in the first year of the 12th Five Year Plan period, which important energy-saving and carbon-reduction policies have been deployed by the central Government?  How influential have these policies been in urban development? Under this new situation, how could cities deploy the strategy of green economic growth and urban low carbon development, depending on its own advantage? And what experience can be learned from exploration of urban low carbon solutions?

In 2010, The Climate Group released its flagship report China’s Clean Revolution III: Cities, and analyzed the progress Chinese cities have made in exploring low carbon and green transition.

This year, The Climate Group cooperated with the Nanfang Media Group to conduct the Low Carbon Tour of China’s cities, undertaking case studies of Hangzhou, Wuhan, Dongguan and Kashgar. In these Chinese cities, we tried to grasp and analyze the lasted trend of low carbon development.

Our findings are:

  • State goals are strengthened with tight allocation. The state carbon-reduction and utilization of new energy targets have been strenghened through policy notices of different central departments, demonstrating the strategic direction to which the state develops low carbon economy. 
  • Regional development has been prominent. During the 12th Five Year period, the state distributes a variety of carbon reduction targets to different regions according to the level of economic development. For example, the energy-saving target for Eastern and Southeast coastal regions is 18%,  Central 16% and Western 10-15%.
  • Hangzhou (Eastern Region) - Promoting livelihoods. Hangzhou’s GDP per capita reaches RMB 68,000, close to that of moderately developed  countries; therefore it pays more attention to promoting urban life quality and people’s livelihood. The city’s public bicycle hire scheme contributes 8% of transportation with 250000 rentals everyday due to the Easy Rent, Easy Return System. And a commercial development allows the project to operate without public investment. The city also promotes application of electric vehicles (EVs) through demonstration of renting EVs, subsidizing private purchase of EVs and supporting the relevant infrastructure. 
  • Wuhan (Central Region) - Transition and transformation. Wuhan is a crucial city leading the rising central region and also a national pilot for the “two-oriented” (environmental friendly and resource-saving) society. As an industrial city, the focus of Wuhan in the 12th Five Year Plan is still transition and upgrading of industries. Donghu Economic Development Zone has already been upgraded to a national innovation demonstration pilot, providing opportunities for growing new industries. The opening of two regional energy centers has accumulated experience for regional energy management. Wuhan is also a pioneer  in carbon trading, which wins business opportunities for itself.
  • Dongguan (Southeast Coastal Region) – Upgrading the world’s factory. Dongguan boasts very strong comprehensive economic strength, with the annual GDP per capita at RMB 66,000. Known as the world’s factory, Dongguan is a typical export-oriented economy and promotes urbanization and industrialisation through developing processing trade industry. Dongguan’s economic transformation is achieved largely due to inducing the enterprises to change the management mode, such as change of investment, technology, and policy, supporting technological innovation and fostering industrial strategic transformation. Because of high urbanization, Dongguan has no propor landfill; therefore, to generate incineration power becomes the primary means of disposing waste. And Dongguan has provided a reference for other cities in selection of incineration plant site, construction and operation of the plant, construction standards and so on.
  • Kashgar (Western Region) – Exploring leapfrogging development. Located in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Kashgar’s GDP per capita is around RMB 22,000. The State Council unveiled policies to bolster the Economic Development Zone in Kashgar, offering opportunities for Kashgar’s leapfrogging development. How to deal with the relationship between development and conservation of cultural and historical heritage and fragile eco-enviroment becomes an important proposition to thinking about Kashgar today. Old town renovation projects will include cultural and historical thought of development to explore sustainability of development in Kashgar. To enhance green logistics, industrial localisation, financial services and tourism in the five major international trade port will help Kashgar in green positioning of the development.

These examples can provide useful information for low carbon development of other Chinese cities, especially when it comes to policy innovation, public funding innovation and interference of the financial system.

There is also the research results of The Climate Group's work to further understand how to include low carbon strategy for Chinese cities in the process of parallel rapid urbanization and industrialization, through our China Redesign project. We will continue to join hands with more Chinese cities and working partners to explore and promote more positive and effective low carbon transitions together.

Read the report China City Low Carbon Tour

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