Low Carbon Economy
Vol.09 No.01(2018), Article ID:83350,17 pages

Low Carbon City Development in China in the Context of New Type of Urbanization

Md. Nazirul Islam Sarker1*, Md. Altab Hossin2, Yin Xiao Hua3, Jhensanam Anusara4, Srichiangrai Warunyu4, Bouasone Chanthamith1, Md. Kamruzzaman Sarkar5, Nitin Kumar4, Sita Shah4

1School of Public Administration, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

2Department of Management Science and Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China

3School of Automation Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China

4Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

5Department of Zoology, National University, Gazipur, Bangladesh

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).


Received: January 25, 2018; Accepted: March 25, 2018; Published: March 28, 2018


Urbanization is an important part of economic development in China which directly related to industrial development. Industrial development is based on energy production, consumption, and trade. A new type of urbanization with low carbon city development is an urgent matter in the researcher community for developing an appropriate strategy, policy, technology, and action. The aim of this study is to explore the status and assess the strategy and policy of low carbon city development in the context of urbanization. It also finds out the effects of new type of urbanization on low carbon city development by finding out constraints and providing recommendations. An extensive literature review with meta-analysis has been done considering various indicators of low carbon city development. This study reveals that most of the large cities are already under the pilot projects of low carbon city development. It also finds out some major indicators of low carbon city like economic growth, energy using pattern, social and lifestyle factor, carbon and environment, urban mobilization, solid waste management, and water management in the context of urbanization. Rapid urbanization requires more building construction and energy which emits more GHG. It suggests that an assessment index system should be introduced by the government to control, monitor and motivate people to use low carbon technology. It further suggests that rules and regulations, awareness building, locality-based technology and practices, and participation of all stakeholders in policy making should be maintained by the government for sustainable low carbon city development in China.


Low Carbon City, Urbanization, Sustainable Development, GHG Emission

1. Introduction

Urbanization is an important part of social and economic development in China. The process of urbanization in China is faster than other countries. The urban people of China will be 500 million by 2050 [1] . There are so many challenges in China due to the fastest urbanization which characterized by suffering world’s pre- and post-urbanization like air pollution, water pollution, expansion of urban sprawl, traffic congestion and high carbon emission. People-centered and the eco-friendly urban environment is necessary to lead a comfortable urban life in China. Rapid urbanization requires high energy consumption for high production in the industry as well as people’s daily life [2] . By 2030, the carbon emission will be 8 tonnes per capita in China due to carbon using pattern in the industry and urban life [3] . China’s per capita energy consumption is more than global average but China can reduce its energy consumption by adopting low carbon technology and strategic pattern of energy consumption which helps to reduce 20% GHG emission by 2030 [4] .

The term and concept of “low carbon city” were introduced in 2008 in China by a non-government organization, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) [5] [6] . The carbon emission bears 88% aluminum, 80% energy, 86% iron, 75% cement and 92% copper [4] . Some strategic plannings like the restructuring of industry, transport efficiency, lifestyle change, more efficiency in building and electricity, industrial endues and developing energy sector should be adopted by the Chinese authority to reduce carbon emission [7] . Chinese people prefer urban area for their living and it is one of the causes of social transformation which challenges low carbon practices in China. According to City Metabolize statistics, urban population consumes and emits Green House Gas (GHG) about 46% of the total population which deserves special attention for research and practice for low carbon city development [1] . Rapid urbanization and industrialization in China require promoting low city development and tackling rapid rural-urban migration, limited resources, and large population. It also causes some negative effects of air pollution, water pollution, increasing noise, traffic congestion, solid and liquid waste. GHG emission rate in city areas in China is larger than rural areas due to more fossil fuel use and its growing demand. Though China initiated low carbon city development project in 79 cities it faces challenges due to the traditional pattern of carbon practices, institutional rigidness and less finance [8] . The negative effects of urbanization may cause a serious problem for human settlement [6] . The article tries to fill the gap in the literature by exploring the answer to the questions like i) what is the extent of low carbon city development in China? ii) what strategies and policies are necessary for low carbon city development in the context of urbanization? iii) what are the barriers to low carbon city development? These questions lead the research team to determine the specific objectives like i) to explore the status of low carbon city development in China; ii) to assess the strategy and policies of low carbon city development in the context of urbanization; iii) to explore the effects of new type of urbanization of China on low carbon city development; iv) to find out the constraints of low carbon city development in the perspective of new type of urbanization in China; v) to suggest some measures to overcome the constraints of low carbon city development based on findings.

This article depicts research methodology section after introduction including data collection and treatment and data analysis method. The third and fourth section describes a review of related literature and status of low carbon city development in China respectively. The fifth section describes the policy implications for facilitating the low carbon city development in the perspective of the new type of urbanization. The final section concludes the article.

2. Methodology

2.1. Research Design

The study mainly focuses on concept, indicators and implementation challenges and opportunities of low carbon city development in the perspective of fastest urbanization in China. A conceptual model is developed for low carbon city development in China through extensive literature review [9] . The research is descriptive in nature based on some indicators of low carbon city development (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Research design for low carbon city development in China.

2.2. Sources of Data

This study has been extensively used secondary sources related to the concept, indicators and practices of low carbon city development, adoption of modern eco-friendly technologies, low carbon governance, climate change effects, air and water pollution and the adverse effect of the unplanned future economy. Some developed and developing countries are in the stage of rapid urbanization and low carbon city development is a prior issue to them. Though this study has been confined to China but it is applicable for other developed and developing countries.

2.3. Search Strategy

This study has been extensively searched some renowned databases like Google scholar, a web of science, science direct, Springer link, researchgate website using important keywords like “low carbon city, technology, urbanization, eco-friendly city, climate change, and China for securing reliable information” [10] . The data collection and analysis for this study has been done from November to December 2017. According to Liu & Qin, a literature review is a significant part of the development of a field [1] . It offers an opportunity to synthesize and reflect on previous research, and thus providing secure grounding for the advancement of knowledge [9] . Finally, 75 journal articles and books are selected for qualitative content analysis for this study. The supporting data has been taken from government statistics and other sources on the internet with due verification (Figure 2).

2.4. Data Analysis

Data is analyzed from different perspectives of low carbon practices, technologies,

Figure 2. Flow diagram of study selection.

indicators, challenges and opportunities of technology adoption, climate change effect and environmental governance.

3. Review of Related Work

The rate urbanization in China is increasing rapidly as the urbanization rate was about 36% in 2000 but increased to about 53% in 2012 [11] . The rapid and new type of urbanization faces an acute pressure for infrastructure, urban resources, land, real estate, pollution and economic development due to making new cities adjacent to old cities, urban expansion, and migration [12] . About 18% of the total population is living in 35 largest cities in China [13] . The percentages of urbanized people are increasing due to the fastest rate of a new type of urbanization. The more people require more energy, more building construction and more resources which lead to more Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG), air and water pollution. Global warming and climate change are the effects of Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG). About 40% - 78% GHG emissions are originated from cities due to the cause of fastest urbanization [14] . The rate of GHG emission is increasing gradually with increasing urbanization. Traditional urbanization follows energy-intensive development patterns which require increased energy consumption along with rising living standards [15] . China is undergoing fastest urbanization on an unbalanced scale as a largest developing country.

The scarce natural resources, overpopulation pressure and limited climate and urban finance, make the cities of China vulnerable to climate change impacts. Some cities of the northern and western part of China have already faced some climate change impacts like a sandstorm, drought, and smog while the cities of eastern and southern part of China are experiencing rainstorm and frequent flood [12] . According to Liu and Deng [16] , cities of northern China is experiencing decrease at 2% to 10% while flood-prone cities of southern China faces more than 20% average annual precipitation. Some cities of China viz Shanghai, Guangzhou already faces some climate change effects like rainstorms in every summer. Since urbanization creates so much pressure on energy, environment and carbon emission, so a decarburization strategy should be taken by the policy makers irrespective of regional and national level for saving the citizen and developing low carbon city [12] .

Low-carbon city program was initiated in China in 2008 and subsequently, the low-carbon city experimental project was launched in eight cities viz Chongqing, Xiamen, Nanchang, Tianjin, Guiyang, Shenzhen, Baoding and Hangzhou in 2010 [13] . Low carbon pilot project included another 29 provinces and cities in 2012 which covers 57% of total GDP, 42% of total population and 56% of energy-related CO2 emissions [12] . The goals of the new development strategy of China are sustainable urbanization, ecological civilization and scientific development which can be achieved by low-carbon city development through integration of low-carbon society and low-carbon economy [6] [17] . So, low carbon city development is not only for better lifestyle but also for the better economic development of the city (Table 1).

Table 1. Major research on low carbon economy.

The major strategy of sustainable urbanization requires a low carbon city development planning, policy, and development pattern since Chinese cities are facing various constraints in implementing a new type of urbanization.

4. Current Status of Low Carbon City Development in China

Sustainable urbanization is a new challenge for Chinese cities due to the continuous migration of people from the countryside to urban areas, environmental pollution, and energy consumption. A continuous and new approach is necessary for sustainable low carbon city development in order to cope with the continuous challenges and pressures of social and environmental factors.

4.1. Concept of Low Carbon City

A low carbon city is an approach to the transformation from industrial civilization to ecological civilization which covers the challenges of urbanization considering low carbon practices. Energy saving and low carbon emission are the priority sector in the economic development process which faces the challenges driven by global politics, climate change, energy consumption & crisis, and urbanization. In 2003, the British government first proposed low carbon economy through Energy White Paper entitled to “Our Energy Future: Creating a low carbon economy”. A low carbon economy can be achieved through practicing low carbon city development. One of the major purposes of low carbon city is to reduce energy consumption and carbon emission i.e. low carbon energy is related to low carbon city development. Low carbon city is also an urban development model which stimulates the initiation and development of new type of urban economics for reducing energy consumption and carbon emission (Figure 3).

The challenges of urbanization in the process of city development are meeting up with the similar concepts of low carbon city, eco-city, and low carbon eco-city development in China. This low carbon city concept was decided by the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee

Source: Adapted from [39] .

Figure 3. The origin of low carbon city.

for developing eco-friendly, energy saving and self-dependent model. The major purpose of this model is to reduce poverty, developing an eco-friendly environment and promoting renewable energy sources. This plan was further strengthened through the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China [40] . The concept also explained in last few years as sustainable or eco-city development. Some other scholars described the eco-city from various perspectives. According to Feng et al. [41] , eco-city usually saves energy, water, and other natural resources by reducing pollution and waste. As a result, an eco-city is an approach to saves fossil resources and provides an attractive place for living and working. According to Zhang [42] , an eco-city is a city which includes harmonious human development, synchronization of ecological, economic and social factors, economic and environmental components. Yu [2] mentioned that eco-city is a process which stimulates environmental, economic and social development through transforming traditional production patterns and improving lifestyles (Table 2).

4.2. Introducing Low Carbon Policy

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) selected 6 provinces and 36 cities for low carbon cities pilot projects for reducing carbon emission in the industry and promoting eco-friendly development as a responsible body of government [2] . The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) of China has also played a vital role in reducing GHG emission and low carbon city development. The MEP also conducting other related works like controlling polluters, monitoring, supervising and licensing industrial bodies, reviewing the

Table 2. Similar concepts to Low carbon city.

progress of pollutants through local government [2] . In 2012, the MEP provided an award to 38 National eco-cities (or counties) and 1559 National eco-towns for best practices in environmental protection [12] .

Urban and rural human settlement sector is under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD) of China which assess the best practices of urban settlement by some standard indicators and contribute to low carbon city development in the new type of urbanization [51] (Figure 4) (Table 3).

Figure 4. Dimensions of low carbon city (LCC) development.

Table 3. Dimensions of low carbon city (LCC) development.

4.3. Manufacturing Sector and Carbon Emission

Rapid industrialization in China stimulates manufacturing industries, especially iron and steel, cement and chemical industry. Most of them are established in the cities which are located in the newly established industrial parks [58] . It provides a great opportunity for Chinese cities to encourage industrial symbiosis as well as low-carbon strategy, demanding a systematical evaluation so that quantitative evidence can be provided for future policymaking. However, comprehensive study focus on this topic remains challenging, due to model limitation and data unavailability.

4.4. Transportation Sector and Carbon Emission

Electricity production, industrial fuel use, and ground transportation are the major source of carbon emission in Chinese cities. The average rate of emission is higher than cities of other developed countries of the world [18] . This study analyzes the sources of carbon emission in various Chinese cities and finds three major GHG contributing sectors like energy consumption, industrial system, and transportation. Some major sectors are considered by some researcher with transportation like energy supply and consumption, construction of the building, agriculture, industry, and planning of new urban areas [59] . Some others mentioned that economic and policy instruments are the major effective keys for low-carbon development [1] . Major instruments are labeling and certification of energy, beginning inner carbon markets and inspiring energy pricing reforms [22] [13] . The main low carbon practices for city development are upgrading industrial structure, relocation of industry, energy savings, energy friendly technology, and transportation of low carbon [60] [61] . Establishing energy standard, urban planning, and public transportation are the major instruments for achieving goals of CO2 reduction which must be considered by the concerned authority [1] [62] .

4.5. Building Sector and Carbon Emission

One of major GHG emission sector is building sector which covers 14.11% of total emission with other sectors like 41.36% by transport and communication sector and 10.41% education and recreation sector [12] . Most of the big cities are suffering from poor land use. The development of low-carbon cities has been encouraged worldwide because cities are key drivers of energy consumption and related carbon emissions [63] . Regulation and technological improvements will play an important role in mitigating GHG emissions in some Chinese cities. Carbon reductions require a transformation of the city’s lifestyle, social and economic development pattern which includes clean energy policies to encourage change in its energy system [28] . Knowledge, expertise, science, and technology from foreign countries are considered to be a key component of developing low-carbon cities [19] . Some researchers have suggested that low carbon development of China’s cities need to learn from and collaborate with successful

Figure 5. Conceptual framework of the low carbon city in China in the context of urbanization.

low-carbon cities in developed countries. The carbon-related regulations can improve emission reduction awareness and behaviors of policymakers and other related stakeholders [64] (Figure 5).

5. Recommendations

・ Governments should make an assessment index system and incentive mechanisms which will encourage low-carbon production to provide low-carbon products to the market.

・ The research centers need to focus on low-carbon technologies for providing technological support for the development of low-carbon cities in China.

・ Awareness building program should be taken by the concerned authority on the importance of low-carbon consumption and low-carbon lifestyles.

・ Local feasibility should be considered for designing, planning and implementing Low-carbon policy, practices and technology development for sustainable low carbon city development in the context of the new type of urbanization.

・ The targets of government for low-carbon city development are not enough understanding to different stakeholders. So necessary steps should be taken by the concerned authority for implementing real works instead of just showing the achievements of local officials. Moreover, medium-sized or small cities should be taken into consideration for gross achievement in low carbon city development over the country. Additionally, building construction should be considered for low carbon city development irrespective of large, medium or small cities.

・ Governments should be taken the initiative to design proper rules and regulations for providing legal insurance for the development of low carbon industries, raising environmental awareness among people for promoting low-carbon practices, measuring and assessing emission reduction achievements, encouraging enterprises for focusing on innovative low-carbon technologies, improving industrial structures and energy structures.

6. Conclusion

The traditional urbanization pattern in China is a challenge for maintaining low carbon because of its relation to industrial development. Since industrial development is basically based on energy production, consumption, and trade. Low carbon city development in the process of the new type of urbanization is an academic debating matter in the researcher community particularly on developing an appropriate strategy, policy, technology, and action. This study reveals that most of the large cities are already under the pilot projects of low carbon city development. Some major indicators of low carbon city like economic growth, energy using pattern, social and lifestyle factor, carbon and environment, urban mobilization, solid waste management, and water management are related to urbanization. It also finds out some constraints like the traditional pattern of urbanization, the traditional pattern of industrial development, huge pressure on energy consumption, unawareness of the people about GHG emission, unavailability of low carbon technology, unequal emphasis on medium and small cities, and lack of proper assessment system. This study suggests that a standard assessment indicator system should be introduced by the government to control, monitor and stimulate people to use low carbon technology. It further suggests that rules and regulations, awareness building, local-oriented technology and practices, and stimulating participation of all stakeholders in the policy-making process should be maintained by the government for sustainable low carbon city in China. Further research should be done to address the performance of China’s low-carbon city pilot projects and determining the role of government agencies for the development of low-carbon cities in China.

Cite this paper

Sarker, Md.N.I., Hossin, Md.A., Hua, Y.X., Anusara, J., Warunyu, S., Chanthamith, B., Sarkar, Md.K., Kumar, N. and Shah, S. (2018) Low Carbon City Development in China in the Context of New Type of Urbanization. Low Carbon Economy, 9, 45-61. https://doi.org/10.4236/lce.2018.91004


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