Why the Future of Sustainable Cities Rests with China

Manish Bapna outlines the factors that put China on the frontlines of sustainable urban development.
February 16, 2012, 1pm PST | Ryan Lue
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As Bapna explains, China is no stranger to the woes that plague modern cities. Over half the country's residents are now urban dwellers, facing "poverty, over-crowding, pollution, and congestion" on a scale that dwarfs other cities around the globe. And China has achieved this status in a phenomenally short time: just forty years ago, peasant farmers accounted for a whopping eighty percent of the population.

But China's massive and growing urban population presents a unique opportunity – while most urban growth in the Western world will take place in existing cities (at least for the immediate future), developers in China must build new cities from the ground up just to keep up with demand. It's estimated that by 2030, China will boast 221 cities with over 1 million residents. By comparison, Europe has only 35 such cities today. Thus, "While the idea of smart cities is not new, creating sustainable cities for the booming global population requires scaling up on a whole new level. And there is no better place to start than in China."

The government of China has not failed to recognize this opportunity, and has incorporated several environmental goals for its 12th Five-Year Plan. To accomplish those goals, it will work with the World Resources Institute to develop policies and projects for energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and clean water.

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Published on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in Forbes
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