Four postdoctoral researchers from China's prestigious Peking University, who are specialized in the field of low carbon economy, share their perspectives on building low-carbon cities. They are Dr Li Jinbing, Dr Liang Shengping, Dr Tian Huimin and Dr Wu Zhenghong.

PKU economists: The idea of 'Smart New City' (I)

PKU economists: China in critical period of low carbon development (II)

PKU economists: Sound motivating mechanism needed (III)

Jointly presented by and 

Part III

Host: An interesting idea is maintaining low carbon levels throughout the whole life cycle. ‘Low carbon’ should not be limited to the product only, but also the whole manufacturing process, the raw materials supply process. Now the solar power and LED industries are boosted, but how do you supervise these industries from the whole process aspect, doctor?

Li: 1 I’ve been doing research in the photovoltaic (PV) industry. One of my reports was published on People’s Daily’s website. There are concerns in the domestic industry. More than 90 percent of raw materials were imported, and more than 90 percent of finished products were exported. Germany is the major export destination.

One of Germany’s top leaders talked earlier about future development, saying Germany’s industry will decrease PV power generation from seven to five megawatts. This is an unfavorable change to China’s PV industry, especially in Jiangsu province.

The country’s PV industry chain is not well connected, and converges to up- and mid-stream. We had not done enough in the application of PV cells. Germany, being strong in these applications, takes half of the European market shares.

I suggest our PV industry apply products, such as PV cells, in people’s daily life. These are my feelings and thoughts.

Wu: I sense some calculations are required. Talking about solar power and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) industries, enterprises will invest into technologies and raw materials, which also need to incorporate low-carbon and environment protection projects. In the long term, materials are going through a cycle, consumed and scraped, in which, we may find how much consumption of resources is reduced and how much carbon emissions are cut. With these specific estimates, the development of this industry could be well managed.

Host: The low carbon practice is much more than the words, and the practice needs the involvement of the whole nation. We will see ‘low carbon housing’ probably becoming a popular concept in future. Can we say the low carbon housing will add some more cost to buyers? Who will pay for the low carbon?

Wu: The development of low-carbon housing must take both supply and demand into consideration, and it needs the government to play a crucial role. Property developers should make constructions greener and low carbon, which involves a lot of technology. Hi-tech is also included, which costs a lot of money and has to be passed to buyers.

Buyers will think about the price of low-carbon apartments and do some math. Now, enterprises are still facing a challenge that is the high cost of technology. Enterprises should find solutions by continuing to fund research and development (R&D) to reduce the cost.

On the flip side of a coin, low-carbon housing projects cost some more now, but in the long run, we should count the savings in resources including energy, water and electricity. Low-carbon housing development needs not only enterprises’ initiatives, but also residents’ willingness, which is very important.

It is one of the strategic goals for the government to cut carbon emissions and save energy, so a sound motivating and restraining mechanism should be designed. Then enterprises would be motivated to do the R&D to cut costs, and buyers could be encouraged and supported maybe by taxation and subsidy policies. The development of the low carbon housing is, after all, one of the government’s goals, so (it’s) a joint effort by the government, enterprises and residents.

Host: Many cities have adopted the concept of ‘low-carbon operation’, and some small regions, like hi-tech parks, brought forward the concept of ‘low-carbon parks’. Dr Liang, could you please tell us about some successful cases of low-carbon cities or low-carbon parks? What can we learn from them?

Liang: About low carbon cities and parks, I recall some foreign regions, and this is an irresistible trend. Take Stockholm, Sweden, as an example. The city has healthy ecology and a beautiful environment, and is using an intelligent traffic system. The city developed fast, but the traffic congestion is severe; it pulled down work efficiency and living standards. The city joined hands with IBM for the intelligent traffic system, and then set up 18 stations with sensors. The stations monitor the frequency with which cars pass the location and record it by laser photography as evidence for transportation tax collecting. This move dramatically lowered congestion in the city, which could be seen as a low-carbon lifestyle.

Host: It takes precise management to collect transportation tax in accordance to usage rather than a universal tax. You all said low carbon is inevitable, but the government mostly focuses on GDP growth. Low-carbon development may conflict with the current urban development. Dr Li, could you please introduce possible approaches for resource-intensive cities with long histories, such as coal mining cities and steel plant cities?

Li: The issue of resource-intensive cities is a challenge to the world – not only to China. The country, as a developing country, will maintain a certain developing speed and consume a large amount of resources, especially fossil fuels like coal. Shanxi province and Inner Mongolia autonomous region are major coal mining regions. The country may consider a clean energy development system to neutralize carbon emission by encouraging energy guzzlers in energy-intensive regions to invest in energy-saving, high-tech products in regions with advanced technologies. Some strong supportive policies are deserved.

Host: It is great to have four postdoctoral researchers in this dialogue. Please describe your expectations on low-carbon urban development.

Wu: The development of a low-carbon economy depends on the whole nation, and each part should contribute. All the government, enterprises, society and media should participate. An old Chinese saying goes, ‘Where many help to gather firewood, the flames shoot high.’ I hope everyone strives to boost low-carbon development. Thank you.

Liang: As I said before, low carbon is complex and complicated. It requires contributions from everyone. For the development plan, I hope the low-carbon industry in China has our own Chinese characteristics, and we realize low-carbon urban development with Chinese wisdom. Thank you China Daily website, and call for more social funds supporting low-carbon projects.

Host: Thank you all. We discussed low-carbon urban development from several aspects. Let me finish this dialogue with an African saying, ‘If you want to go faster, then you will go alone; if you want to go away, you and the people together.’ Let’s hope the development goes further and faster, and every city achieves a sound and speedy development on the road to low-carbon living. Thank you all.

PKU economists: The idea of 'Smart New City' (I)PKU economists: China in critical period of low carbon development (II)

Quotable Quotes
Ronald Denom
Low-carbon city is hundreds, it's thousands of little actions that added up all together end up producing carbon.

Jorge Mora
But what is the main challenge? It's not about what your government wants. It's not about if it's possible or not. It is about what you Chinese citizens really want.

Deborah A. McCarthy
Our challenge is to come up with a global norm. That will enable us to all be on the same line or sheet of music.

Chen Guangbiao
Now we have forest police, why shouldn't we establish an environment police?

Zheng Guoguang
The country wants to develop nuclear power. The safety questions, atmospheric environment evaluation questions and, possibly, emergency response questions must be taken into consideration.

Liu Zhengdong
Aluminum is, in the short term, an industry of high-energy consumption. But in the long term, it is a high energy-carrying industry.

Liu Tongbo
I think Beijing should also develop more bicycle lines. This is a good way to improve the traffic and the air quality.

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