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Guangzhou delegate received the Lighthouse Activities award from Christiana Figueres (center), the executive secretary of UNFCCC. [Courtsey of Guangzhou's transportation committee]
The bus rapid-transit system in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong province, stood out from among 100 applicants around the globe and was selected as one of this year’s nine Lighthouse Activities.
The UN Climate Change secretariat’s Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities awards honor projects that either help curb greenhouse gas emissions or help people adapt to climate change, while at the same time benefit the urban poor.
Carrying an average of 850,000 passengers every day, Guangzhou’s bus rapid transit system has a larger capacity than any other such system in Asia as well as the second-largest capacity in the world. It reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 45,000 tons in 2010 and is expected to achieve an annual reduction of 86,500 tons in the following 10 years.
Xian Weixiong, director of Guangzhou’s Transportation Committee, which is in charge of the operation of the system, is proud that the system has received international recognition and become a model of sustainable transportation for other countries.
One of the key criteria for the selection of the Lighthouse Activities is that they have the potential to be replicated in other countries and communities. The Guangzhou transit system meets that criterion. The system’s designers, the Guangzhou Municipal Engineering Design and Research Institute and the China office of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, have introduced the system to other cities home and abroad, including Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
More than 130 cities from over 36 countries have sent delegates to Guangzhou to learn from the city’s bus rapid transit system.
The nine winning projects were showcased at a special event on Tuesday at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar. The other eight selected projects included the promotion of electric buses and rickshaws in Sri Lanka; energy-efficient brick kilns in Peru; and a door-to-door green energy social enterprise with a women-driven direct sales network in Uganda.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the Momentum for Change awards take people out of negotiations and into the reality.
"Forget this conference, forget the texts. These projects take us out there to communities and to people who are exactly experiencing climate change and are actually innovative enough to come up with solutions to help reduce greenhouse gases,” Figueres said in her awards speech.
The Momentum for Change awards began at the Durban, South Africa, conference last year.
Jon Bickel, representative of the Peru branch of Swisscontact — the Swiss foundation that funded the projects of energy-efficient brick kilns in Peru and another eight countries in Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia — warns that developing countries will face more serious problems caused by climate change than developed countries do if they don’t act in time now.
"Countries such as China, India and Brazil are growing very fast, which means they demand a lot of resources and energy. Now it’s developed countries who produce the largest amount of greenhouse gases, but in the future, it will be developing countries,” Bickel told China Daily at the rehearsal for the ceremony.
He has special concerns about the big populations in many developing countries. “For example, every two people in Europe have a car. If it’s the same situation in China, there will be too many cars producing too many greenhouse gases,” Bickel said.
Bickel said the bus rapid transit system in Guangzhou offers big cities in the country the most suitable solution, which is mass public transportation.
Rigg said the Guangzhou system impressed the advisory panel of the Momentum for Change awards with its scale.
The Ecological Monitoring Center implemented the project of adaptation to coastal erosion in Senegal, one of the other nine winners of the Momentum for Change Lighthouse Awards this year. Ndiaye told China Daily that organizations in developed countries, including Canada and the Netherlands, offered technical support, and the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund sponsored the project.
The bus rapid transit system in Guangzhou helps solve the rush-hour traffic jams. [Courtsey of Guangzhou's transportation committee]
"It would be very difficult for us to implement the project without the funding from the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund because we cannot get financial support from the government,” said Ndiaye, who added that the government’s investment is mainly in fields such as food supply, education and health care.
"The prior concern for people in Senegal and many other African countries is still about basic needs such as food and housing. Many may not hear of the term ‘sustainability’ their whole lives," Ndiaye said.
"Nor are the governments paying enough attention to sustainability because they still need to focus on securing people’s basic needs and developing the economy,” he added.
The Momentum for Change event is helpful for advocators for sustainability and addressing climate change in developing countries. “It helps our project to win attention from the government and the public so that we can arouse their awareness of the climate change issue,” Ndiaye said.
"As a powerful developing country, China should take the lead role in addressing climate change and promoting sustainability, serving as a model and offering other developing countries technological and financial help,” he added.