REPORT: China’s Rapid Urbanization to Play Key Role in Curbing Country’s Climate Pollution

Sustainable Urban Land Use, Transportation and Building Efficiency Critical to China’s Climate Success

LIMA, PERU (December 10, 2014) — China’s cities now account for more than half of the country’s energy use and are home to nearly half of the country’s population; that makes cities’ long-term sustainability critical to China’s climate change goal of peaking carbon pollution by 2030 or before, according to a new report. “Climate Change and Urbanization: Challenges and Progress in China” was released today by five international nonprofit organizations at the COP 20 international climate conference in Lima, Peru and focuses on key urban land use, transportation and building efficiency solutions being implemented today in cities in China. 

“China is in the midst of developing a green urbanization path for its cities – one that addresses climate, health and quality of life issues for its citizens,” said Qian Jingjing, China Program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “China’s efforts to promote low-carbon urbanization and develop innovative best practices provide ample opportunity for international cooperation as China addresses global climate change and this new urbanization path.”

The report summarizes China’s low-carbon urbanization experiences, lessons and recent progress, and underscores the significance and potential contribution of China’s new urbanization to addressing global climate change.  It was released at a China Pavilion side event at COP 20 with the theme of “City’s Green Low-Carbon Future,” and examines three key urbanization issues for which Chinese cities are seeking climate-friendly solutions: land use, transportation and urban energy. The report introduces case studies of good practices in Chinese cities, and was drafted by the NRDC China Program with input from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Energy Foundation China (EF China), Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) and World Resources Institute (WRI).

“Green development has now become a global trend,” said Minister Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation at Lima COP 20 and Vice Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). “When exploring our own new urbanization path, promoting green cities, circular economy and low-carbon development, China needs to summarize and learn from past experiences, study domestic and international best practices, and actively participate in international exchange and cooperation.”

Some of the case studies featured in the report include:

  • Efficient land use
    • Shanghai’s “landless investment” that increased land use intensity
    • Kunming’s transit-oriented mixed land use in the Chenggong New Town
    • Tianjin’s integrated planning process in the Binhai New Area
  • Green transportation development
    • Asia’s first – and the world’s second largest – Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Guangzhou
    • Hangzhou’s public bicycle rental system
    • Wuhan’s community carpooling low-carbon travelling initiative
  • Urban energy use efficiency
    • National low-carbon pilot programs at city and provincial level
    • Net-zero energy use buildings pilot programs
    • Energy retrofits for existing buildings in Northern China

WRI China Energy Program Lead Lei Hongpeng introduced the report on behalf of the five organizations. He noted that Chinese cities need to practice transit-oriented development so that transportation and urban planning can be closely integrated. Reducing the demand for private cars and strengthening non-motorized transit systems should be priorities while Chinese cities promote sustainable development.

Dr. He Dongquan, director of the Sustainable Cities Program at EF China, emphasized that Chinese cities should pay special attention to land-use intensity, smaller scale urban roads, mixed land use, etc., while urgently improving coordination between urban planning departments and other agencies.

EDF China Program director Dr. Zhang Jianyu highlighted the necessity for cities to implement low-carbon energy planning. And ISC’s China Country Director Dr. Janz pointed out that, based on ISC’s experience in promoting community activities, Chinese cities should encourage and support various aspects of community and public participation in low-carbon energy conservation.

The international environmental organizations that developed the report have conducted sustainable/low-carbon projects in Chinese cities for many years, and have long supported green, low-carbon Chinese urban development. The research for the report was supported by the London-based philanthropy, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

The full report can be found here: Climate Change and Urbanization: Challenges and Progress in China


Expert Bios


XIE Pengfei, Sustainable Cities Project Director, NRDC China Program
Before Joining NRDC, Dr. Xie worked as a principal investigator and senior researcher with the Chinese Society for Urban Studies, Ministry of Housing and Urban‐Rural Development (MoHURD) in China. He is an associate professor and an expert on sustainable urban development of MoHURD. Dr. Xie has experience in both research and project management. He is a post‐doctoral research fellow with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He did his Ph.D. in Peking University and his M.S.C. in University College London.


ZHANG Jianyu, China Program Director, Environmental Defense Fund

Starting from 1999, Zhang Jianyu has been working with Environmental Defense Fund, a leading U.S. environmental NGO and advocacy group, as Managing Director of its China program, which focuses on the use of market-based instruments (MBIs) in solving environmental problems in China. Zhang Jianyu helped found and manage the first professional Joint Venture environmental consulting firm established in China. He served as China project consultant for U.S. Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA) implementing a Clean Production project sponsored by USEPA.


Zhang Jianyu is a visiting fellow at the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University.  Zhang Jianyu is a member of the Lead Expert Group (LEG) for China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), the supreme expert body advising the Chinese government on environment and sustainability issues.  Zhang is also an executive board member of China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO) and serves as the advisors for a number of international and domestic bodies.  Zhang Jianyu obtained his Bachelor Degree at Tsinghua Univeristy, master’s degree at Stanford University and Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University.


HE Dongquan, Sustainable Cities Program Director, Energy Foundation China

Mr. Dongquan He is Program Director of the Sustainable Cities Program, which promotes sustainable urban development and urban transportation systems to mitigate the environmental and energy impacts associated with urbanization in China. His projects include new city and non-motorized system planning and design, city retrofits, public transit optimization, and conducting studies to support national policies and standards development. Before joining the Energy Foundation, Mr. He worked with Argonne National Laboratory and focused on road transportation energy system analysis, especially the life cycle analysis of vehicle technologies and fuels. Mr. He has published more than 20 academic papers and compiled four books. Mr. He received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Tsinghua University with a major in environmental science and engineering.


ZHANG Haitao, Cities and Transport China Director, World Resources Institute (WRI)

Haitao Zhang serves as Cities and Transport China Director, EMBARQ China Director, and Sustainable and Liveable Cities Initiative-Transport Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI), where he provides strategic leadership and management for a cadre of inter-disciplinary experts in China spanning from sustainable transport, urban development, to water risks and low-carbon energy. He is also responsible for reinforcing government relationships and directing the fundraising and communication activities. He has successfully led the Cities and Transport China team to become a trusted technical advisor to multiple national and local partners in China, from the National Development and Reform Commission, to the Ministry of Transport, Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, and Qingdao and Chengdu Municipal Development and Reform Commissions.


Haitao joined WRI with 10-year extensive experiences in transport policies, transport planning and management, and intelligent transport system (ITS). Haitao received his master’s degree in transportation planning and management from Florida International University. He holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in Traffic Engineering from Beijing University of Technology. Haitao is also a Professional Engineering (P.E.) licenced engineer.


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