From “High-Speed” to “High-Quality” Growth: Shenzhen, the birthplace of China's economic miracle, goes low-carbon


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Shenzhen, in south China, has grown from a small fishing community to a metropolis of 10 million people in just 35 years.
Shenzhen, in south China, has grown from a small fishing community to
a metropolis of 10 million people in just 35 years.
Shenzhen occupies a special place in modern Chinese reform history. Set up as the first Special Economic Zone under economic liberalization in 1980, the city has grown from a small fishing community to a metropolis of 10 million people in just 35 years.

Today, Shenzhen continues to play its leading role in low-carbon development for its strong commitment and innovative policies, moving from “high-speed” to “high-quality” growth model. Shenzhen launched the first carbon cap and trade scheme in June 2013, and is also one of the highest profile low-carbon city pilots in China.
Therefore, I am excited that a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on climate change between the Shenzhen municipality and the World Bank Group was signed on June 10, 2014 at the International Low-Carbon Forum in Shenzhen. Because Shenzhen is such a symbol of successful pioneer of China’s reform, having been an engine for unparalleled growth for more than three decades, the work detailed under this MOU has a strong demonstration effect, with a wide replication potential within and outside China.
China has set ambitious targets to address growing concerns over carbon emissions: a reduction in carbon intensity of 40-45% by 2020 from the 2005 level, which will largely be met by energy conservation efforts with a target of a reduction in energy intensity by 16% between 2011-2015, and renewable energy scale-up with a target of an increase in the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 15% of the primary energy mix by 2020.
Cities account for 85% of China’s commercial energy use, therefore, they are at the center of the action to achieve the government’s carbon-intensity-reduction target.
City center of Shenzhen
City center of Shenzhen
Shenzhen is now at the leading edge of these national efforts.  The municipal government is deeply committed to getting onto a low-carbon development path, and has integrated low carbon objectives throughout the city’s overall development strategies.
This is uncharted territory, and the city government recognizes that it will need to draw on international experience to meet such goals.
Since December last year, I have been leading our team to discuss with the Shenzhen government on collaboration to support the city’s low-carbon city development through analytical studies and technical assistance. In the meantime, our colleagues at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have also been in discussion with the city on cooperation on green buildings and financial products for the pilot carbon cap-and-trade scheme. 
This MOU is a concrete step under the Climate Change MOU between the Government of China and the World Bank Group signed by China NDRC Chairman Xu Shaoshi and World Bank Group President Jim Kim in September 2013. It is also a good example for the World Bank Group acting as one Bank, from both the World Bank and IFC, to support both public and private sectors in low-carbon development in Shenzhen.
The World Bank plans to support the municipal government develop a comprehensive roadmap and specific policy recommendations to achieve its ambitious emission reduction targets, funded by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).
This study will first develop CO2 marginal abatement cost curves and scenarios, to integrate and rank abatement measures in the major energy-consuming sectors. Now that the manufacturing industry is moving out of Shenzhen as part of the city government’s aggressive campaign to clean up their environment, the city has identified two other sectors as target areas to reduce emissions: transport and buildings. Finally, this study will also develop a low-carbon investment program in Shenzhen International Low-Carbon City, a district where the municipal government plans to demonstrate a high-growth, low-carbon model.
The other element of the MOU is support for the development of a carbon market for the pilot carbon cap and trade scheme. This includes improvement of the current cap-and-trade scheme, the possible inclusion of transport into the carbon market, and the development of new financial products for this market. 
On June 10, Shenzhen Vice Mayor Tang Jie and World Bank Country Director Klaus Rohland signed the MOU in Shenzhen. Mayor Xu Qin, Global Environment Fund (GEF) CEO Naoko Ishii, World Bank lead environmental specialist Garo Batmanian and I witnessed the signing.
“Putting a price on carbon is fundamental to provide signals for investment in low-carbon and resilient growth,” said Klaus Rohland. “We hope this MOU will strongly support Shenzhen to become a leading low-carbon city in China and the world.”
An exciting journey has just begun!


Xiaodong Wang

Senior Energy Specialist

Join the Conversation

Kushal Gurung
August 12, 2014

It is really impressive to see China's commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. More amazed by Shenzen's effort to lead it. However, bit concerned how realistically could China reduce their carbon emission, whilst maintaining their economic growth, which is still mostly sustained by coal. They might reduce the intensity in percentage term, but might still emits higher in terms of total quantity, unless they decide to limit their growth. Pushing industries from one city to neighboring rural areas may not be the best solutions. It might help a city to reduce its carbon emissions very quickly, but the carbon is still being leaked to the atmosphere, make almost no difference in global scenario. It would be interesting to see the CO2 marginal abatement cost curves and scenarios, but I wonder how significantly different would it be compare to those already been prepared by other think tanks like Mckinsey. Nonetheless, a good initiative indeed and best wishes!

Peggy Mischke
August 13, 2014

This looks like a very good initiative, Xiaodong! Hopefully some more low-carbon competition will come up in China and globally. Please keep us updated on the progress, it will be interesting to discuss and compare it to our low-carbon activities in Copenhagen. Best, Peggy

Truman Cui
February 12, 2016

Really like your articles and hope to connect with you again! Truman

Truman Cui
February 12, 2016

The author XiaoDong Wang is my high-school classmate, somehow we lost contact for years. I would really hope the site master can review this comment and send my message (with email address) to her. Thanks in advance! Truman Cui

Kanitha Kongrukgreatiyos
February 28, 2016

Hi Truman - I'm a site admin for this blog - could we have your contact? Will let XiaoDong know.