The development model of low-carbon cities has attracted the attention of many cities around the world. In the movement of all mankind to deal with climate warming, many cities have shown a positive attitude, and actively carried out low-carbon city attempts in the practice of urban construction and management.
1. Theory of low carbon cities in countries other than China
Scholars believe that a low-carbon society and a low-carbon city are achievable goals, but only if there is a concerted effort at the international and national levels to promote innovation in low-carbon technologies and cooperation in the social sector to ensure that climate change can be aligned with socio-economic development goals (Skea & Nishioka, 2008). Glazer and Kahn studied the relationship between carbon emissions and land use, and believed that the stricter the restrictions and constraints on land use, the lower the level of carbon emissions in residents’ lives. For example, high-density central areas have less carbon emissions per capita than low-density suburbs (Glaeser &. Kahn, 2008). Norman has confirmed through a large number of qualitative studies of urban sprawl that transportation plays a key role in urban energy and CO2 emissions (Joan-than Norman, 2006).
The above theoretical explorations are based on the reality of the country and focus on solving the outstanding problems of urban development. Due to the differences in the development stage, resource endowment, and industrial structure of their respective cities, the theoretical research has its own characteristics.
2. China’s low carbon city theory
In recent years, Chinese scholars have carried out discussions on low-carbon cities from the perspectives of compactness of urban spatial structure (Chen Fei, 2009a), ideas and methods of low-carbon urban planning (Pan Haixiao, 2008; Zhang Quan, 2010), and low-carbon buildings and low-carbon cities (LiJun, 2010). In recent years, a number of low-carbon city projects have been gradually launched. In 2008, the National Development and Reform Commission and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched the “China Low-Carbon City Development Project”, jointly identifying Shanghai and Baoding as two pilot cities for China’s Low-Carbon City Development Project, and plans to develop at least 15 low-carbon cities in China within five years.
Shanghai’s low-carbon urban planning focuses on building energy conservation, reducing total carbon emissions by evaluating and measuring building energy consumption, training property managers, and developing ecological buildings. Shanghai Chongming Island Dongtan Eco-city plans to build the world’s first carbon neutral area through measures such as urban planning, ecological development, sustainable energy, waste management, green buildings, transportation planning, design and construction. Baoding focuses on the application of new energy, and proposes the “China Electric Valley” and “Solar City” plans. According to statistics, by the end of 2007, 50% of the public places, 40% of the living quarters and 40% of the tourist attractions in Baoding had completed the transformation of solar energy application.
Following Shanghai and Baoding, the idea of low-carbon cities has gradually attracted the attention of other cities in China, and many cities have begun to experiment with low-carbon economic development models. Zhuhai promotes the realization of a low-carbon city by promoting the use of LNG buses and taxis; Rizhao City has set a goal of becoming a member of the “Climate Neutral” network of cities to promote the construction of a low-carbon city by popularizing residential solar technology; Hangzhou is committed to building a low-carbon industry to achieve the goal of a low-carbon city; Guiyang is promoting the construction of an eco-city and a low-carbon city by launching a pilot project of LED energy-saving lighting. Other typical low-carbon city projects in China include Guangzhou Demonstration City for Sustainable Transportation, Panzhihua City for Biodiesel Development, and Yichun City for Ecological Protection and Low Energy Consumption Development.
Although scholars have different research methods and perspectives, and have different definitions of the connotation of low carbon city theory, they basically agree on the following two principles: ① The development of low-carbon cities cannot be at the expense of economic development. On the contrary, the development of low-carbon cities must be combined with economic development, and strive to achieve a win-win situation; ② China’s low-carbon city development will contain content that foreign experience does not have, and we need to continue to explore and innovate.