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A Vision on Future Green Urbanization toward Carbon Neutrality

Rocky Mountain Institute Releases Report Introducing New Concept of Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration

Beijing China, November 17th, 2020

Today, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a new report titled Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration: China’s Vision on Future Green Urbanization, introducing a brand new concept—Whole-System Zero-Emissions Demonstration (WS-ZED). WS-ZED will help cities in China implement the country’s latest announcement on the pledge of “2030 Carbon Peaking” and “2060 Carbon Neutrality.” The report provides a theoretical framework and quantitative indicator system to decouple green economic growth from carbon emissions, waste and pollution in cities.

As cities in China go through economic transformation, they simultaneously face the challenges of carbon emissions, waste management and pollution control. Fortunately, China has accumulated rich experiences of managing urban growth over the past 40 years across complex natural geography and diverse social conditions.

Meanwhile, globally the 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 are seriously affecting the daily life of everyday people.

By tackling those three challenges all together for the first time, 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 emission 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.

“At present, there are as many as 3,500 new urban development projects being planned in China, which are the critical theater for China to implement its national strategy of 2060 Carbon Neutrality and Ecological Civilization. WS-ZED provides a theoretical guidance for an actionable green urbanization model,” said Yihan Hao, main author of the report and manager of RMI. “The concept of WS-ZED and its indicator system can be applied to projects at different scales, ranging from 300 km2 large-scale urban zones to campus-level technology demonstration projects. Our team has carefully proposed more than 100 quantitative indicators as the preliminary attempt to support each project to come up with its own tailor-made zero-emissions solution.”

This new concept has gained strong buy-in from the market and policymakers in China. RMI is contributing to the Beijing Administrative Zone (Tongzhou District) 14th Five-year Plan by introducing the WS-ZED concept. Beijing Future Science City of Changping District, home to research divisions of multiple state-owned enterprises in the energy sector, has cited WS-ZED in its integrated energy planning document to support its strategic goal of establishing global Energy Valley and attracting pioneer energy innovators from the whole world. Areas like Tongzhou and Changping are typical examples of urban development zones demonstrating bottom-up efforts toward carbon neutrality in line with and supportive of China’s national pledge.

“Under China’s ‘2030 Carbon Peaking‘ and ‘2060 Carbon Neutrality’ pledge, this new concept focuses on the exploration of an innovative green urbanization model and a brand-new development model in the post-industrial civilization era,” said Li Ting, managing director and chief representative of RMI China. “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.”

Read the full report here.

About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in the United States in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.