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For China’s Polluted Megacities, A Focus on Slashing Emissions

For China’s Polluted Megacities, A Focus on Slashing Emissions

The booming industrial center of Shenzhen is a showcase for Chinese efforts to cut CO2 emissions and make the nation’s burgeoning cities more livable. But it remains to be seen whether China’s runaway industrial development can give way to a low-carbon future.

Paulson Institute
An energy-efficient building in the Shenzhen International Low Carbon City.
The northeastern fringes of Shenzhen — a fishing village that has been rapidly transformed into a global port city of at least 11 million people — are a patchwork of drab factories spewing smoke, and multi-lane highways packed with container trucks. The area epitomizes the severe pollution and runaway urbanization that have dogged southern Guangdong province since China’s ruling Communist Party began to embrace capitalism in the 1980s.

Yet one side road here leads to a jarringly different scene: A riverside plot landscaped with bamboo trees and elevated boardwalks and dotted with energy-efficient buildings that a state-run developer either built from scratch or refashioned from the shells of old factories. “It’s a demonstration of how we can live in a place without pollution and with clear air,” Cheng Fang, a spokeswoman for the developer, said on a recent afternoon at the eco-complex.

Over the last decade, China has taken ambitious steps to begin curbing its carbon footprint. In 2009 the powerful State Council announced a plan to reduce the carbon intensity of the national gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. And in 2014, President Xi Jinping pledged to peak China’s emissions around 2030 and increase the share of renewable energy sources in the economy from 8.3 percent in 2010 to roughly 20 percent by 2030. Both moves helped lay the groundwork for last year’s landmark climate agreement in Paris, which China and the United States formally ratified this month at the G20 gathering of heads of state in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

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