EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

City's green ambitions

Writer: Lin Min  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2021-11-15

China and the United States unexpectedly announced Wednesday that the two countries had agreed to jointly combat climate change, just two days before the scheduled conclusion of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The surprise announcement showed countries around the world are now recognizing the seriousness and urgency of the climate issues after years of bickering and the major setback marked by the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Despite all the squabbles and skepticism over the years, some cities have taken earnest steps to cut greenhouse emissions. Our city is one of them.

Shenzhen has asked aspiring industrial parks, communities, schools, enterprises and institutions to apply for inclusion into a list of pilot demonstration areas for near-zero carbon emissions. The program, made public last week, aims to achieve regional carbon emissions approaching zero, economic growth driven by emerging near-zero carbon industries, and consumption of near-zero carbon energy.

Qualified pilot areas will receive government grants, the city government said. District governments are also encouraged to provide financial incentives. Financial institutions will be urged to provide green loans, green bonds and green funds to support the program.

The near-zero carbon program is an upgrade from previous low-carbon campaigns. It was announced just weeks after Shenzhen's first hydrogen-powered buses began plying a route in Longgang.

For years, Shenzhen has been advocating a low-carbon way of life and promoting green technologies, taking concrete actions much earlier than most other Chinese cities. From low carbon to near-zero carbon, the city has been taking pragmatic steps towards the long-term goal of zero carbon emissions.

As early as 2006, Shenzhen promulgated a set of regulations on promoting the circular economy, which is an economic model designed to minimize resource input, as well as waste and emissions.

In 2010, the China Emissions Exchange was established in Shenzhen as the world's first carbon market in developing countries, to facilitate the process of buying and selling carbon offsets.

In August 2012, the city started construction of Shenzhen International Low Carbon City at Gaoqiao Industrial Park in Longgang District. The Low Carbon City is now home to 245 companies accredited as national high-tech firms, and features green buildings and wide use of renewable energy for various aspects of life.

Shenzhen's push for the popularization of electric vehicles has made the city a global leader in developing green transport. Its teeming streets are now seeing more and more vehicles featuring green license plates, indicating they are new energy cars. It is of no surprise to learn that Shenzhen ranks number one globally with more than 480,000 new energy vehicles. By the end of 2020, it had 21,000 electric taxis, 63,000 app-based new energy hailing cars, and 86,000 new energy logistics vehicles.

On Sept. 24 this year, the World Bank, along with three other partners, released a report titled "Electrification of Public Transport: A Case Study of the Shenzhen Bus Group," sharing with its 189 member states Shenzhen's experience in turning all fuel-powered buses into a fully electric fleet.

We are now seeing a growing number of electric car charging points at the parking lots of office buildings, housing compounds and public venues. With the strong financial and administrative support from the city government, the number of charging points in Shenzhen grew from 60,000 in 2018 to 90,000 in 2020. The number of charging points in Shenzhen has exceeded those in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Stockholm combined, according to media reports.

Shenzhen has also been aggressively phasing out coal-fired power plants and turning to sustainable power generation. Electricity generated by nonfossil fuels now accounts for 69.3 percent of the total electricity generated.

Using its special power to make laws, the city legislature has adopted a series of laws and regulations to help tackle climate change.

Shenzhen's strenuous efforts to tackle pollution and cut emissions have achieved outstanding results. Once plagued by smog, Shenzhen now has been among the top 10 cities in the country's air quality rankings for years and we are getting accustomed to seeing WeChat friends posting "Shenzhen Blue" photos and words that describe their pride of having the blue skies.

Although cutting emissions is costly, sometimes painful, this offers opportunities for green industries. The added value of the low-carbon industries in Shenzhen reached 122.7 billion yuan (US$19.23 billion) in 2020, growing 6.2 percent year on year, and is expected to continue growing.

China has promised it would strive to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The pledge will embolden Shenzhen to take more ambitious initiatives to tackle climate change, which is posing an increasing existential threat to every city and every individual.

(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)