WARSAW, POLAND— This week, the China Pavilion hosted a side event on “Low-Carbon Urban Development and Low-Carbon Lifestyle” at the international climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland (COP19). The event brought together Chinese and international experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities China faces in moving toward low-carbon urban development.

Sponsored by the Department of Climate Change of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China Vanke, World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF, the event served as a platform for members of the government, businesses, and research institutions to share experiences and explore possibilities to advance low-carbon development in China.

Offering opening remarks at the event was Su Wei, Director General of Department of Climate Change at NDRC, who stressed the important role played by cities in tackling climate change.

China’s urban structure is undergoing historic changes. At the end of 2012, China’s urbanization rate went beyond 52%, meaning that over half of the country’s population now lives in cities. This rapid shift to cities brings serious challenges, but also new opportunities for China.

“With the rapid expansion of new urban centers, China can set a new model for sustainable urban development. It is vital to look across sectors to understand how energy efficiency, water quality, transportation and land use can all work together todrive successful low-carbon urban development,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI. “WRI is working with its partners, such as the Caterpillar Foundation, and with government officials, especially in Qingdao and Chengdu, to identify new and innovative approaches to sustainable urbanization.”

The side event focused on four aspects: urban planning, construction, low-carbon urban lifestyles, and sustainable urban ecological environments. Because urban populations typically consume more resources and produce more greenhouse gas emissions, cities carry both risks and opportunities when it comes to climate change. Cities produce more than 70% of global emissions.

“The notion of low-carbon cities has rich implications for China,” said Samantha Smith, Leader of the WWF Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “In China today, climate change and urban environments are converging. Cities need to increase their applications of clean and renewable energy, and to reduce carbon emissions. We need to build towards more livable cities, for the sake of both the people and the environment.” she added.

Wang Shi, Chairman of China Vanke, shared their efforts in green building. He said: "China's construction industry accounted for one-third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. Currently China Vanke’s achievement in green building is only 0.1% of the national emission reduction target. But if the entire industry could comply with the latest released national green building policy, I believe we could meet the 12% reduction target in 2020."

As China moves to reform its economy, to drive future growth and address environmental challenges, cities are important area for sustainable development.

WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, and more. Our more than 300 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.