Future climate, future cities

Where nature meets high-tech - the Eastern outskirts of Shenzhen
Teaser Image Caption
Where nature meets high-tech - the Eastern outskirts of Shenzhen

Against the backdrop of the European Union’s Green New Deal and the People’s Republic of China’s 2030/60 carbon targets, on December 14th, 2022, the National Climate Strategy Center (NCSC) and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Beijing Representative Office hosted a webinar on Sino-German Climate Cooperation at the city level.


Researchers, city officials, company representatives, and changemakers from both countries shared their research and good practice about how a transformation to a low-carbon development model can be realized through cross-sectoral contributions. 


Despite the very different political set-ups, both countries’ current policies, and strategies at national, regional, and city levels require concrete emission-cutting efforts, as presented by Dr. ZHUANG Guiyang from the Institute for Eco-Civilization of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Prof. Anna Growe from Freiburg University, together with Ms. YAN Simin from Heidelberg University, and Mr. Eric Swehla from the City of Wuppertal. In China, these requirements cover a comprehensive list of sectors with clear emission goals. City-level governments are encouraged to provide policy incentives for innovations that are compatible with a city’s economic condition and urbanization level. “Pilot cities tend to perform better in cutting emissions than other cities. Therefore, the central government should create policy mechanisms that enable cities to play a more active role”, argued Dr. Zhuang. 


Participants from both countries presented carbon reduction practices, cases, and plans that showcased very diversified pathways. Their sharing reflected how cities define their roles in the whole low-carbon transformation process, therefore creating a space for similar cities to learn from best practices and lessons. Ms. YE Ang from Deutsche Energie-Agentur highlighted how the agency leverages financial and technical resources to support low-carbon building and construction projects. City officials from both Beijing and Qingdao elaborated on how to combine emission-cutting measures with other government-led environmental movements such as air pollution control. 


While technical exchange and financial tools remain at the core of facilitating systematic transformation, consultation processes engaging different stakeholders play a crucial role in promoting sustained efforts and gaining support from citizens, as shared by Ms. Katja Hellkötter, founder of the Citymakers Europe – Germany network. Ms. MING Dengli from Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau echoed this view by emphasizing how the municipal government encourages public participation in environmental protection actions. Considering that even more comprehensive and transformative efforts are needed to realize the existing climate neutrality goals, how to further increase public participation deserves more exchanges and mutual learning. 


Three-year pandemic restrictions have created new challenges for bilateral communications beyond national borders. Yet, the willingness to share experiences and work together for climate goals remains strong. As China will launch more detailed policy documents of climate adaptation at provincial levels in 2023, participants from both countries expressed their openness to expanding and deepening the exchanges.