On 17th June, Wuhan officially became the latest member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, making it the 5th Chinese city to join this network, after Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The city has committed to limit emissions to 0.16 billion tonnes by 2020. In terms of unit of GDP that’s a reduction of 56% compared to 2005 levels. The actual emission in 2010 was 0.102 billion tonnes which leaves a room of around 60 million tonnes. However, the fossil fuel consumption in the city has been growing at 9% annually in recent years (source). There’s a lot to be done to reach the set target by 2020.
The Wuhan City Cluster is one of the two experimental zones in China to build ‘resource-conserving and environment-friendly’ society. The city itself also made it into the second batch of low carbon pilot cities selected by National Development and Reform Commission. Apart from the support it can receive from central government in terms of funding and policies, the city also benefits from the following:
R&D centers and talent pool
Wuhan is home to 82 higher education institutions, including Wuhan University and Huazhong Technology and Science University which regularly show up in top 10 Chinese universities list. Currently there’re over a million students studying in these universities and institutions. 21 out of 220 State Key Laboratories are hosted in Wuhan, covering areas like software development, water resource and hydropower, remote sensing and survey, coal combustion and digital manufacturing equipment.
In private sector, there’s also a strong focus on clean energy and emission reduction. In 2012, WWF announced 4 winners of its first annual Climate Solver China Awards. 2 of these companies are based in Wuhan. With Yunhe Dingyu Refrigeration Science & Technology Company’s technology, it could potentially reduce 15 million tonnes emission by 2022 (if its refrigerator can reach 50% domestic market share in vessel and automobile exhaust gas refrigeration). Similarly, if CCEPC’s technology can be adopted by half of the steel industry in China, it can reduce 7.5 million tonnes emission by 2022.
Regional carbon market
China Hubei Emission Exchange (CHEEX) was created in 2012 but only started the market trading earlier this year in April. In the first 12 trading days after the market opened, 1.6 million permits changed hands, compared to a total of just 66,000 permits sold on China’s five other pilot carbon markets in the same period. Potentially it can become the most liquid carbon market in China but issues like speculative traders attracted by no capital threshold set by the market, the future of the market remains to be seen.
Commitment from local government
The city government has recently published a plan to improve air quality during the period of 2013-2017. The plan has listed 154 tasks for over 60 departments, including retire the current 140 thousands highly polluted vehicles by 2016, introducing 10 thousands vehicles running on new energy, restructuring Wuhan Iron and Steel group and reducing coal consumption to below 50% of total energy consumption.
While they all look nice and promising, I reserve my right to be cynical. When doing background research online on the Great East Lake Ecological Water Channel Network Project which is mentioned in the official press release by C40, I came across quite a lot of doubts from local citizens, not just those whose homes were forcefully demolished to make way for the project. The project was approved by in 2009 by National Development and Reform Commission. It’s been planned for a period of 12 years with total investment of around 16 billion RMB. Supposedly the aim of the project is to reduce pollution, preserve water resources and improve the whole eco system. However, the first stage of the project was handed over to a commercial real estate developer to connect Shahu Lake and Donghu Lake with a water channel (the option of building an underground channel was rejected), and at the same time develop commercial retail, office and residential space.
The wholeGreat East Lake Ecological Water Channel Network Project aims to connect the marked 6 lakes within the city
Plan by Wanda, the commercial real estate developer for the first stage project. Blue area is the water channel. Orange is pedestrian-only shopping street. Red is additional commercial retail space. Yellow is commercial residential area and a school. Pink is office building. Green is water-front park. Purple is for hotel.
The pedestrian-only shopping street has been completed this is how it looks now
To make the above nice view happen, 8932 households were forced to move elsewhere to make way for the project. Some of them only received compensation of 6000 RMB per square meter (when price for a new development in that neighbourhood was already 9000 RMB per square meter at the time). Four years later, it has doubled the price now.