China will need to be more specific in spelling out its climate plans.
Lei Han — Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This is the 117th article in the series — The China Chronicles.
Read the articles here.
China’s urbanisation rate has been amongst the highest in the world. In the 40 years of reforms, it moved from 19.9 percent to 58.5 percent, with 46 percent of the population having moved from rural to urban areas. This resulted in what is referred to urbanisation with Chinese characteristics defined by the three words — exit, mobility, and entry. This meant ‘exiting from rural provinces,’ ‘moving of labour into industrialised centres,’ and ensuring ‘easy entry of migrants and services for them to live.’
However, over the years, several leading urban centres like Beijing and Shanghai which have huge coal consumption came under severe criticism for its bad air quality, water scarcity, and the rising sea-water level threats.
Recently, a paper written by Chinese scholars from Guangzhou in peer-reviewed ‘Frontiers in Sustainable Cities’ captured global attention. The paper, ‘Keeping Track of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Progress and Targets in 167 Cities Worldwide,’ highlights how 23 Chinese cities make up for the top 15 percent of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters globally, accounting for 52 percent of the total global emissions. This study points out that Chinese cities with high per capita emissions are generally with high urbanisation, and specifically where there is burgeoning manufacturing and transportation activities.
A climate mapping exercise conducted in Chinese cities by a global environmental NGO in July 2021, pointed out how ‘areas undergoing rapid urbanisation are experiencing a steep rise in risk. But they are not as well-researched or funded to address climate risk.’  The exercise directly links the risk to the growing city centres where population density is highest and where high economic activity is concentrated.
This study, which made deductions from the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, pointed out that the temperature rise in some parts of Beijing could exceed 2.6°Celsius by 2100. It also stated how climate change would cause summers to become longer by 28 days in Beijing, 24-28 days in Shanghai, and by over 40 days in Guangzhou-Shenzhen. It deducted that parts of Shanghai and Guangzhou-Shenzhen regions would experience a more than 25 percent rise in extreme rainfall, and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen region would experience more drought.
Realising the pressure that such uncontrolled urbanisation has put on the natural and built environment in these regions impacting climate, the 14th Five-Year Plan of China that was revealed in 2020, introduced a ‘new urbanisation plan.’ These plans which are drawn out every five years are social and economic development initiatives issued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1953. The highlights of these new…