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Report | 2020

Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration

China’s Vision on Future Green Urbanization

By Ting LiYihan HaoShutong (Lucy) LuMeng WangJames MandelKoben Calhoun
Download the report below

As cities in China go through economic transformation, they also face the challenges of carbon emissions, waste management, and pollution control. Many global cities face similar challenges. The global urban population is predicted to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050, and the main driver for the new round of urbanization is the global division of labor and industrial transfer. As a result, carbon emissions of emerging economies are often export-driven while waste and pollution remain a domestic issue. All three issues seriously affect the daily life of everyday people.

By tackling those three challenges together for the first time, Rocky Mountain Institute’s new report introduces a new concept — Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration (WS-ZED). The WS-ZED concept goes one step further than net-zero carbon and proposes a broader concept to reveal the added value of synergy among net-zero carbon, net-zero waste, and net-zero pollution. This new concept aims to resolve these growth challenges by adopting a holistic approach to put in place urban management policies to combat both climate change and environmental degradation.

In the report, RMI proposes:

  • A WS-ZED theoretical framework to elaborate the correlation between production/living and emissions/waste/pollution, establishing the internal logic for cross-sector efforts of mitigation, reuse, recycle, and treatment.
  • A WS-ZED dual-indicator system to support planning decisions and emissions benchmarking, covering social/economic factors, planning and design decisions, production and living conditions, and resources/supplies.
  • A WS-ZED technology landscape to support implementation of early intervention technologies, reshaping urban infrastructure to scale up clean energy, low-carbon industry, green mobility, efficient buildings, and other integrated city governance technologies.

Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration is a China-originated concept with global vision, which we believe will set new benchmarks for global urbanization, especially for countries and regions experiencing rapid urbanization along with the Belt and Road Initiative.