Due to mass consumption and pollution, the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by Chinese cities have increased dramatically in the last few decade. Currently half of China's cities cannot meet the air quality standards, and one-third of its land is affected by acid rain (Zhang, 2007). In order to protect its people and nature from dangerous environmental threats, sustainable development of China's growing cities must become a top priority, and a key resolution is making them low carbon cities. Low carbon cities can be defined as urban development that minimises carbon production, improves capacities for adaptation to climate change, minimizes the negative impacts of climate change, improves human development, and accommodates both inter- and intra-generational needs, thereby laying a foundation for sustainable socioeconomic development. This paper will examine the feasibility of such measure in China. More importantly argue that it is indeed possible to achieve low carbon status for existing Chinese cities. It does so by first look at the characterisation low carbon cities, follow by the examine the economic, political and social mechanisms that are in place to facilitate the reduction of carbon in cities, as well as discuss some of the barriers to low carbon urban development and how China can overcome them.
The search for low carbon cities in China
The Chinese economic reform that took place in late 1978 has produced spectacular economic growth. However, the desire for growth have overshadow the need for environmental protection. The rapid industrialisation and urbanization in cities results in increase number of coal burning factories, additionally rural life are replaced by modern living style whereby city dwellers use vast quantities of energy, mostly derived from fossil fuels. All sources emits large quantity of carbon oxide into the atmosphere. The Chinese Central Government has already aware the importance to reducing the emission of CO2 by putting the development of low carbon cities as one of the top priorities at the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. That development is based on the recognition that the conventional Chinese path of encouraging economic growth at the expense of the environment had to be changed (Zhang 2007). As a result the concept of applying ecological principles to the planning of the cities has steadily gained momentum and start to attracted greater attentions. While cities may vary in terms of their scales, scope, approaches and focus, typically, low carbon cities adopts the following general planning and design approaches (Jain 2009):
• Strong focus on reduction in energy consumption
• Maximum usage of renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectricity
• Reduction in urban heart island effects.
• Adoption of passive design principles in building construction.
• Minimise the use of automobiles, instead use walking, cycling and...