China promises to clean up its cities, which will be home to 60% of its population by 2020

Clare Saxon Ghauri
18 March 2014

BEIJING: In China’s first ever official urbanization plan, the government has vowed its cities will meet national pollution standards and receive new renewable energy systems, to prepare for the expected 60% of the population that will be living in cities by 2020.

China made the pledge to clean up its cities in its New Urbanization Plan, a blueprint for the country’s urban growth over the next six years that was released by the State Council this week.

The Plan promises the government will ensure a good quality of life for the hundreds of millions of people it wants to move from China’s countryside to cities, with an expected 60% of the population living in urban areas by 2020.

Presenting guidelines on coping with this rapid urban growth, the Plan covers government spending on infrastructure, schools, hospitals and housing.

But driven by public discontent from out of control smog levels, the migration has also prompted a greater emphasis on integrating the government’s eco-civilization concept into the urban development plan.

Warning of increased public health issues from over population and its associated issues of pollution from congestion, poor urban waste management and other ill-prepared public services, the Plan lists several priority areas, including:

  • Transforming industries to improve energy-efficiency and environmental protection.
  • Accelerating the construction of renewable energy systems, promoting distributed solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy.
  • Supporting businesses’ low carbon efforts.
  • Boosting the use of new energy vehicles.
  • Implementing an action plan for green building standards, improving the certification system to expand enforcement and developing green building materials.
  • Controlling high-emission industries and implementing an air pollution control plan for regional joint governance and controlled joint governance.
  • Introducing an emissions permit system and boosting environmental law enforcement.

The Plan also highlights how the government will construct its first ‘green city’ to help generate bold “green production, lifestyles and consumption patterns”, that could perhaps be seen as a model for other cities.

“This is an important part of China's clean revolution, " said Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. "Redesigning its urban landscape and system that is built upon harmony between man and nature and prosperity for all has become a major task of urban managers in China today. The success will rely on innovation and creativity, and more importantly through reforming its institutions and governance that could fully support a urban sustainability strategy."

The central government is responsible for implementing the urbanization strategy, but the National Development and Reform Commission will now develop the detailed plans for each area.  

Related news:

China on track to spend US $817 billion in environmental protection

Calculating climate insurance: Changhua Wu shares her thoughts on climate risk

China to ‘declare war’ on pollution

Report: Understanding China’s new low carbon growth plan

Image by Flickr/Fredrik Rubensson

By Clare Saxon

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