The fourth global climate assessment report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 pointed out that global warming is an undisputed fact, and the possibility of human activities causing global climate change is 90%. How to adapt to the uncertainty of future development while continuously improving the quality of life and maintain the sustainability of development is a common challenge faced by cities all over the world. The concept of “low-carbon economy”① development is a constraint on future development, and it is also a rare opportunity to make adjustments to urban development strategies by using high-tech, and to rapidly advance to an advanced urban development model. In this context, the concept of “low carbon city” featuring “low emission, high energy efficiency and high efficiency” came into being. A low-carbon city is to develop a low-carbon economy based on urban space, implement green transportation and buildings, change residents’ consumption concepts, and innovate low-carbon technologies, so as to minimize greenhouse gas emissions (Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2009). Facing the real challenges brought about by global warming, China has already begun to act.
1. Scientific research and publicity
In recent years, a good atmosphere for theoretical research and academic exchange of low-carbon urban planning has been formed in the whole society. In response to the problems brought about by the energy crisis and climate warming, low-carbon economic research has emerged internationally. In the “low carbon city” characterized by “low emission, high energy efficiency and high efficiency”, through the adjustment of industrial structure and the transformation of development mode, rational promotion of low-carbon economy will not only not restrict urban development, but may also promote new growth points, increase the lasting power of urban development, and ultimately improve urban life. The 2007 study by the Industrial Transformation (IT) Working Group of the China National Committee of the International Global Change Human Factors Program (CNC-IHDP) concluded that China’s industrial output value structure and technological structure have a great ability to reduce emissions. The analysis shows that the increase of the total industrial volume is the main reason for the increase of carbon emissions, while technical factors and industrial structure factors have not greatly inhibited the increase of carbon emissions. A 2007 study by the CNC-IHDP Secretariat showed: if the whole people actively participate in energy conservation and emission reduction, the total annual energy saving of 36 daily life behaviors (including clothing, food, housing, transportation, and use) is about 77 million tons of standard coal, equivalent to 200 million tons of CO2 emission reduction. The CNCIHDP Industrial Transformation (IT) Working Group used the 2005 China Non-competitive Input-Output Table to quantitatively calculate the relationship between China’s import and export trade and economy, employment, and energy, and found that: in 2005, the deficit of energy saving due to import and export trade was 297 million tons of standard coal, and the CO2 emission was 664 million tons, accounting for 13% of the total energy. Therefore, adjusting the export trade structure and reducing the export proportion of energy-intensive products is also one of the main ways for China to reduce carbon emissions. To sum up, the transformation of the industrial structure, the change of the traditional lifestyle and the export-oriented foreign trade structure, the urbanization with Chinese characteristics, and the acceleration of the development of China’s low-carbon cities have great potential for energy conservation and emission reduction.
At the same time, China has also held many influential international China conferences, such as “International Conference on Urban Development and Planning”, “Low-Carbon China First Annual Conference”, “National Seminar on Low-Carbon Cities”, “International Forum on Low-Carbon Economy and Low-Carbon City Construction”, “United Nations International Forum on Green and Low-Carbon Habitat”, “China-US Green Energy Forum”, “World Low-Carbon Liveable City Development Forum”, “International Video Forum of Low-Carbon City Mayors” and so on. The various pilot areas and demonstration areas of the low-carbon eco-city have increased significantly, and the enthusiasm for planning and constructing the low-carbon eco-city in various places is high, and the national policy has played a good role in promoting it.
2. Incorporate energy conservation and emission reduction into national economic and social development plans
Faced with the current financial crisis, it is necessary to incorporate the response to climate change and the reduction of carbon dioxide emission intensity into the national economic and social development plan, and take comprehensive legal, economic and technological measures to comprehensively advance all work to address the climate. In the “Eleventh Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development” published in 2005, the goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% in 2010 compared with 2005 was proposed. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, as of the first half of 2010, China’s energy consumption per unit of GDP had decreased by 13% compared to 2005. The Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission (2009) completed “China’s Low Carbon Development Pathways by 2050: Scenario Analysis of Energy Demand and Carbon Emissions”. Taking 2005 as the base year and 2050 as the target year, this paper analyzes various driving and restrictive factors that will affect China’s future realization of the “three-step” development strategy, simulate and analyze the impact of these factors on China’s economic and social development, energy demand and CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2050, and proposes a roadmap for the selection and promotion of different technologies and implementation of different policy measures at different times, as well as the realization of low-carbon economic scenarios. In 2010, the “Outline of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development” was promulgated, and the proportion of non-fossil energy in primary energy consumption (%), the reduction of energy consumption per unit of GDP (%), the reduction of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (%) and the forest coverage rate (%) were further used as binding indicators for economic and social development.
3. Special Actions on Climate Change
In 2007, China issued “China’s National Plan for Addressing Climate Change”, “Comprehensive Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction”, and “Special Action for China’s Science and Technology to Address Climate Change”. “China’s National Plan for Addressing Climate Change” clarifies China’s goals and basic principles for addressing climate change by 2010, and proposes measures such as changing the economic growth model, adjusting the economic structure and energy structure, and controlling population growth, strives to develop new and renewable energy and new energy-saving technologies, and actively promotes carbon sink technology and other adaptation technologies. On June 4, 2008, the Chinese government responded to the call of the United Nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and on the basis of fully considering the current state of the country’s development, proposed a goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% compared with 2005 by 2010. In August 2009, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China passed a resolution on actively addressing climate change. This is the first time that China’s highest state authority has made a special resolution on addressing climate change as a major global issue.
4. Transformation and green development
Zhang Lijun, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection of China, said that the 4 trillion yuan investment arranged by the central government to expand domestic demand and ensure economic growth is mainly aimed at infrastructure construction, ecological environmental protection and people’s livelihood projects. 4 trillion will become the “green engine” of China’s development. At present, several major projects of China’s new energy have achieved remarkable results: with the support of government policies and funds, China’s installed wind power capacity has continuously doubled every year. At present, China has become the fourth largest wind power country in the world. The recently released automobile industry plan also provides policy support for the development of new energy electric vehicles.