By 2030, 221 Chinese cities will have at least one million residents. These fast-growing urban areas present an unprecedented opportunity to create global models for the sustainable, low carbon cities of tomorrow.

China’s 12th Five-Year Plan strongly promotes sustainable cities, and the coastal city of Qingdao is leading the way in translating this principle into action on the ground. WRI helped generate Qingdao’s blueprint for sustainable development, and brought its pioneering efforts to national attention.

Sustainable City Blueprint

In developing their growing city, Qingdao’s leaders sought to pursue economic growth while avoiding urban sprawl and the environmental problems such as air and water pollution that have plagued many Chinese cities.

The city government has developed a low-carbon strategy that includes more efficient energy and waste water use, transport systems that reduce congestion, and sustainable urban design. The blueprint lays the foundation for Qingdao to meet its target of reducing carbon intensity by 45% by 2020. To guide development, the city government has set specific emission reduction targets for each energy-intensive sector.

Qingdao has signed an agreement with French company Suez to upgrade its inefficient waste water system and with China Everbright Bank to improve Qingdao Harbor’s energy efficiency. The U.S. company, AECOM, is set to invest in developing a sustainable design blueprint for the city. 

In December 2012, Qingdao was selected as a National Low-carbon Pilot City, which is initiated by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC); and National Low-carbon Transport Pilot City, initiated by the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role

WRI’s work in China focuses strongly on low carbon cities. We work with China’s NDRC, MOT, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and Ministry of Environmental Protection to design models that focus on efficient energy and land use, sustainable transport, and reliable, clean water supply.

In Qingdao, along with partners including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), we played a critical role in helping the city prioritize low-carbon development. Specifically, we generated an inventory of the city’s energy use, collected traffic data, developed sector scenarios, drew a technology roadmap, and recommended policies that the authorities adopted.

We also introduced Qingdao’s Development and Reform Commission (DRC) to the major companies now helping develop the city. In addition, WRI’s close ties with NDRC and other ministries helped bring Qingdao’s pioneering efforts to central government attention.

WRI will use the city’s lessons learned and best practices in seeking to scale up sustainable urbanization both in Chinese cities and other emerging countries.