Building a low-carbon city: Experiences from China and Germany

Shanghai (China) – FES and partners in China continue the quest for new strategies to address the challenge of rapidly increasing urbanization and environmental problems cities face.

Many cities worldwide face challenges linked to rapidly increasing urbanization and environmental problems and have therefore to find new strategies to make this growth sustainable. China is now facing increasingly severe environmental and climate-change related problems such as air pollution and a growing hunger for electricity, issues that Germany has had to deal with in the past or is currently dealing with as well.

In the second quarter of 2017, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Shanghai jointly organized the second forum on green development. With a workshop titled “Building a low-carbon city” that took place on this occasion, FES and SASS aimed at discussing experiences made on both sides, provide helpful solutions, and identify mistakes to be avoided.

In Germany, the development and implementation of a “Green Change” strategy has accelerated in recent years, particularly since the definite phase-out of nuclear power was set in motion in 2011. It is a multi-layered approach to save energy on a large scale and to promote renewable energy sources among other goals. 

In the same vein, China has also developed ways to deal with existing problems, by establishing pilot projects for low carbon cities and emissions trading systems and through the promotion of renewable energies. Due to their huge population, cities are one of the most important foci of China’s green development policies.

Discussing common problems and examining legal measures supporting green development in China, Germany and Europe were therefore among the main goals of the event. Moreover, international, national and regional programmes were presented that give consumers a platform to submit concepts and to compete with each other for the best ones, but also to exchange experiences and knowledge. Finally, after discussing how to entice consumers to save energy and to invest for long-term economy of both costs and energy, a closer look was given to emissions trading as an exemplary measure for engaging industrial energy consumers.

FES Shanghai invited German experts in the fields of municipal energy provision and international cooperation of municipalities, including the head of the energy department of the city of Hamburg’s Ministry of Environment and Energy, as well as an emissions market expert at the European Energy Exchange, to present and discuss German experiences. All of them were curious to discuss their findings and proposals with the Chinese scholars invited by SASS.

Among the experts were high-ranking scholars as well as experienced practitioners including Li Junfeng of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, Zhou Fengqi of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development, SASS, Bin Hui from the China Energy Exchange as well as a representative from Baosteel, a steel and iron conglomerate.

Roman Serdar Mendle, manager of the Smart Cities Program at the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) World Secretariat, started the workshop with an overview of the arising problems facing cities. Simone Käske, senior policy officer for energy efficiency with the German Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU e.V.), introduced the audience to European and German laws to foster and manage green development, and the strategies that municipal energy suppliers employ to comply with those requirements. Björn Dietrich, head of the energy department at the Ministry of Environment and Energy in Hamburg, explained how the city, which is vulnerable to sea-level rise, involves its industrial enterprises in a wide range of measures dealing with climate change. He outlined the city’s goals for the coming decades and the successes the different programs have had so far.

Through the joint efforts of the city, private consumers, and industry, the city of Bottrop in Germany accomplished a decrease of 37.4 % of CO2 emissions in just five years 

Tobias Clermont, head of urban quarter concepts with the consultancy Innovation City Management GmbH, spoke about how the city of Bottrop in North-Rhine Westphalia had already accomplished a decrease of 37.4 % of CO2 emissions in just five years, through the joint efforts of all stakeholders (the city, private consumers, and the industries). Manuel Möller, senior business development expert with the European Energy Exchange AG, outlined the European system of emissions trading, its tools and goals as well as possible amendments in the future.

The Chinese experts shared experiences from Shanghai and China in general, discussing for example the Chinese emissions trade as well as its practical implications at Bao Steel, one of the largest Chinese steel makers. On the topic of the management of growing urban populations, the Chinese participants gave an overview of current measures and trends such as the popular bike-sharing and (to a lesser degree) car-sharing schemes in major cities. These were examples of the involvement of broader stakeholder coalitions in enabling a more sustainable development of cities. 

Involvement of all relevant stakeholders is crucial for green development

There was a strong consensus among the participants that the concept of Green Development as well as the involvement of all relevant stakeholders should be an integral part of all urban and regional planning and management processes and that further cooperation between those actors was necessary.

China's commitment to changing its developmental model towards greater ecological and social sustainability has strengthened enormously over the recent decade. Since 2016, FES Shanghai has engaged with SASS in a series of workshops on green development to explore what concrete measures could be taken by the Chinese government, its enterprises and its citizens to achieve this difficult transition.

A workshop is planned for Autumn of 2017 on the role of city planning and other legal and administrative measures to create a greener living environment in and around (mega)cities such as Shanghai which achieves a balance between living space, jobs and the natural environment through careful planning and participation of all stakeholders. ###

First published by the FES China website (link in English), the story has been adapted and formatted for style.

Yannick Ringot is project manager at the Shanghai office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, one of two FES offices in China. For more information on the work by FES in China visit this dedicated website

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