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A new report released by the Rocky Mountain Institute provides recommendations on how cities in China can achieve carbon emissions reduction goals set by the government.

The Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration: China’s Vision on Future Green Urbanisation report helps cities in China implement the country’s latest announcement on the pledge of “2030 Carbon Peaking” and “2060 Carbon Neutrality.”

The report provides a framework to help Chinese cities to go through economic transformation while addressing the challenges of carbon emissions, waste management and pollution control.

To help China to address climate change and environmental degradation, the report introduces a brand new concept—Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration (WS-ZED).

RMI proposes:

  • A WS-ZED theoretical framework to elaborate on the correlation between production/living and emissions/waste/pollution, establishing the internal logic for cross-sector efforts of mitigation, reuse, recycle and treatment.
  • A WS-ZED dual-indicator system to support planning decisions and emission benchmarking, covering social/economic factors, planning and design decisions, production and living conditions, and resources/supplies.
  • A WS-ZED technology landscape to support implementation of early intervention technologies, reshaping urban infrastructure to scale up clean energy, low-carbon industry, green mobility, efficient buildings, and other integrated city governance technologies.

The new concept has gained strong buy-in from the market and policymakers in China and is being adopted within the Beijing Administrative Zone (Tongzhou District) 14th Five-year Plan.

The Beijing Future Science City of Changping District, home to research divisions of multiple state-owned enterprises in the energy sector, has cited WS-ZED in its integrated energy planning document to support its strategic goal of establishing a global Energy Valley and attracting pioneer energy innovators from around the world.

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Yihan Hao, the main author of the report and manager of RMI, said: “At present, there are as many as 3,500 new urban development projects being planned in China, which are the critical theater for China to implement its national strategy of 2060 Carbon Neutrality and Ecological Civilization. WS-ZED provides a theoretical guidance for an actionable green urbanisation model.

“The concept of WS-ZED and its indicator system can be applied to projects at different scales, ranging from 300 km2 large-scale urban zones to campus-level technology demonstration projects. Our team has carefully proposed more than 100 quantitative indicators as the preliminary attempt to support each project to come up with its own tailor-made zero-emissions solution.”

Li Ting, managing director and chief representative of RMI China, adds: “Under China’s ‘2030 Carbon Peaking’ and ‘2060 Carbon Neutrality’ pledge, this new concept focuses on the exploration of an innovative green urbanisation model and a brand-new development model in the post-industrial civilization era.

“Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration is a China-originated concept with global vision, which we believe will set new benchmarks for global urbanisation, especially for countries and regions experiencing rapid urbanisation along with the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Although China is a leader in managing urban growth over the past 40 years a continued increase in population is expected to pose a huge challenge to the Asian state.

Globally, the urban population is predicted to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050, and the main driver for the new round of urbanisation is the global division of labor and industrial transfer.

The report is available for download.