As an increase in urban population by another 100 million people is estimated by 2020, the worldwide largest single urban growth since 1980 can be found in China. The country’s rapid economic development promotes the process of urbanization – for urban areas show a high concentration of economic activity and therefore giving ground to investments in infrastructure and buildings and a high degree of innovation. This development, however, comes at huge environmental and social costs. While China has avoided some of the ills often associated with urbanization, such as large-scale urban poverty and unemployment, while creating problems of its own, like the unequal urban-rural divide, which sets apart people with urban household registration (hukou) from those without. This created the floating “migrant labourer” population in Chinese cities, who have reduced or no access to public services in the cities. Like those of other developing countries, Chinese cities also have to face challenges, like poor living conditions, constraints on productivity due to inefficient infrastructure, and of course, environmental pollution.
In March 2014, the State Council released the “National New-type Urbanization Plan” (2014-2020) with the underlying aim to optimize urbanization layout and pattern and increase urban sustainable deployment capabilities. According to the urbanization plan, the proportion of permanent urban residents of the country’s total population will rise from 53.7 percent up to 60 percent by 2020 with the proportion of urbanites who hold household registration increasing from 35.7 percent up to about 45 percent.
China’s rapid urbanization and growing environmental crises in urban areas urgently require a new and greener model for growing and developing cities. Perhaps the best departure point for green urbanization is a comprehensive approach that includes environmental protection, ecological functional zoning and a variety of environmental needs related to spatial layout, green space, plus energy and material use patterns, green industrial parks, and high value-added but low environmental impact economic and social development.
Sino-German Environmental Partnership
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) the Sino-German Environmental Partnership project supports the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) in its efforts to effectively research, plan, and promote concepts and measures towards a sustainable and green urbanization – and therefore providing a cornerstone for the social transformation towards an Ecological Civilization as outlined in China’s 12th Five-Year-Plan (2011-2015).
The CCICED Special Policy Study (SPS) Good City Models of Urbanization under the Concept of Ecological Civilization looks at trends in urbanizing China, focusing on solving key problems of urbanization faced under the concept of ecological civilization, aiming to protect the environment and enhance the quality of urban living. In order to achieve those aims a study tour was conducted in June of 2014 bringing Chinese delegates into contact with leading regional politicians and city planners in Europe.
The objectives are to:
– Assess urban problems in international perspective and provide useful experience.
– Focus on five core areas of problems and countermeasures: Planning and land use, regeneration of old city and architecture, transportation in large cities, construction of environmental infrastructure and urban residential construction.
– Propose institutional mechanisms and policy innovation of the new urbanization mode in the perspective of ecological civilization. Focus on resources and ecological protection at national level, urbanization development policy, recommendation of protection mechanism of ecology and environment at city level, including planning system, social governance, public oversight and public participation, elaborate a roadmap to implement a replicable model for urban development and applied technology.