For the 13th year, World Resources Institute will host Stories to Watch, an event looking at the big stories that will shape the world in the coming year. Dr. Andrew Steer, president & CEO, World Resources Institute, will offer his views on the major economic, social, environment and development issues for 2016.
While more than one-third of China still suffers from high water stress, there are signs of improvement: New WRI analysis shows that the rate of increase in the country's water withdrawals has slowed from 5.1 billion cubic meters per year in 2001-2010 to 1.6 billion cubic meters per year from 2010-2015.
China, the world's largest importer and consumer of timber products, has emerged as a leader in global environmental governance. It still has an opportunity to match that leadership in global efforts to protect forests.
Shenzhen's buses are the world's first 100 percent electrified bus fleet, and its largest. How the city overcame obstacles like high costs and lack of charging stations provides lessons for other cities.
Fostering and encouraging the United States and China to lead by example and serve as sustainable finance champions.
Home to more than a billion people, these countries are charting a dynamic path towards low-carbon wealth. To stay the course, they'll need to confront three issues: inclusive development, rapidly-expanding cities and economy-wide measures for reducing carbon emissions.
The Paris Agreement was the result of unexpected collaboration between the United States and China. President Trump has backed his nation out of the deal, but the surge in subnational action in the U.S. creates an opportunity for joint research, knowledge transfer and continued low-carbon development.
More than a million bike-share bikes crowd some Chinese cities, piling up in public spaces, blocking sidewalks and tripping pedestrians. But the chaos may soon be coming to an end.
WRI has worked to reframe sludge and wastewater as inputs rather than outputs, reducing water stress and greenhouse gas emissions while creating cleaner water and renewable energy. Analyses of this potential informed a wastewater reuse policy in Gujarat, India, and a push in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan to recover energy and resources from sludge and wastewater.
Rapid urbanization in China and India stresses energy grids and water resources in regions that are already water-stressed. China’s water resources per capita, for example, are only 35 percent of the global average, and India’s are just 19 percent. At the same time, rapidly growing economies in China and India are accelerating demand for energy. Waste and wastewater are usually regarded only as wastes and pollutants. Conventional organic waste and sewage treatment methods for removing pollutants are energy-intensive and release potent greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide.
Since 2013, WRI China has worked in six cities to introduce circular economy approaches to capture previously wasted resources. WRI’s work with large Chinese cities shows that such approaches can help cities achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including cleaner water, less waste, renewable energy production and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. WRI developed an analysis to determine the national, city and project-level potential to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and capture energy. WRI worked with local and national stakeholders to advance circular economy approaches for waste and wastewater once their potential was realized.
WRI India supported the government of the water-poor state of Gujarat in developing its Waste Water Recycle and Reuse Policy, providing research support and technology evaluation for wastewater and sharing WRI’s international experience.
For the first time, China’s 13th Five-Year Plan requires the recovery of energy and resources from sludge and wastewater in cities across China to the extent possible. Three new sludge-to-energy projects in Beijing were initiated in the last year, serving 4.5 million people and producing 136 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, equivalent to avoiding the use of 41,000 metric tonnes (more than 45,000 U.S. tons) of standard coal. By 2020, these approaches could cut China’s methane emissions – currently the world’s largest – by up to 4 percent. Besides meeting the energy demand of the projects’ operation, the captured methane could be used to replace 1.9 billion liters (500 million gallons) of gasoline, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1.3 million cars.
Gujarat became the first Indian state to adopt a wastewater reuse policy, mandating that urban local bodies recover 20 percent of wastewater. The states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have since adopted similar policies.
Working with the Ministry of Transport and local agencies, WRI China helped promote bus and metro use, walking and biking in Chinese cities and contributed to the 13th Five-Year National Transit Metropolis Work Plan. Based on progress in 37 pilot cities, the Ministry expanded its National Transit Metropolis Program to 87 cities, which could benefit 490 million people.
As Chinese cities race to manage rapid urbanization, they must contend with sprawl, traffic congestion, air pollution and growing greenhouse gas emissions not only from coal-fired power generation but also from a growing number of passenger cars, among other sources. This costs time – commuters in 15 large Chinese cities spend about 50 percent more time getting to work than their European counterparts – and money: health problems and lost productivity due to air pollution may be valued as high as 6.5 percent of GDP. More sustainable urban growth will require a focus on people and sustainable transit rather than cars.
Working with the Ministry of Transport’s National Transit Metropolis Program, which promotes transit-oriented city development, WRI China contributed to the 13th Five-Year National Transit Metropolis Work Plan. WRI also worked with the China Academy of Transport Science to encourage bus and metro use, walking and biking. Collaborating with local partners, WRI China worked to improve transit services and the walking environment in key pilot cities. In Suzhou, WRI used transit smartcards and bus GPS data to analyze travel patterns and inform the reorganization and integration of bus routes with the subway network. In Kunming, WRI contributed to the Kunming Street Design Manual, which sets the technical standard for renovating city streets. In Zhuzhou, WRI helped introduce the city’s first bus rapid transit system, pioneering a public-private partnership – among the first of its kind in China – and helped optimize the design of the world’s first Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, a computer-guided rail-less vehicle that operates in segregated bus lanes.
Based on the strength of progress in 37 pilot cities, China’s Ministry of Transport expanded the National Transit Metropolis Program in 2017 to 87 cities, potentially benefitting some 490 million citizens through improved transit, increased traffic safety and reduced congestion, commuting time and air pollution. The program aims to eventually reach all 600 of China’s cities.