Mr. Vincent Li says that he only needs a municipal permit to build a vertical forest in each of the five buildings he is constructing in Haidian, a neighborhood in the third ring of Beijing. This veteran urban planner and architect came up with the idea last year in a chat with an Italian architect named Stefano Boeri Architetti, who four years ago popularized this concept in China.
At that time, the project involved converting an area of Liuzhou, a city of more than a million inhabitants in the south of the Asian country, into the first forest city in the world, with 40,000 trees and more than a million plants covering buildings that, besides, they would be equipped with solar panels. The Italian architect estimated that when the new green city was ready, it would absorb 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year and produce 900 tons of oxygen.
Vincent says that each of his vertical forests will absorb up to 15 tons of carbon dioxide each year. They would be the first in the capital of China. In Beijing, the government already requires 50% of new urban buildings to be certified as sustainable. But the future lies in new green cities, places where industry and technology are combined with greenery covering the roofs of buildings. the buildings and the facades, “he explains.
Those new cities that Vincent refers to are already up and running. Like Xiongan, which is being built 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing. The idea is to build a green and technological city in a traditionally industrial environment, where up to 2.5 million residents of the capital can move.
Xiongan would be part of the new development areas that act like satellite cities of large cities, such as Beijing or Shanghai, to alleviate the population pressure they suffer. To the south of another large city, Chengdu, several technology centers surrounded by green spaces began to develop ten years ago. In Shenzhen, adjacent to Hong Kong, the Net City project is already underway, a city the size of Monaco built by the technology conglomerate Tencent. It would be two million square meters, surrounded by skyscrapers with vertical forests, where only autonomous vehicles can circulate.
China has spent 40 years building economic power. It has done it very quickly, without measuring the environmental impact that this entailed. Now it is at a time that seeks to build well, using fewer resources, reducing carbon emissions, taking advantage of energy. renewable and with a high proportion of so-called green buildings, explains architect Austin Williams, author of the book Urban Revolution of China. In 2012, China had 11 green cities. Four years later, the country announced it had 284. It is clear that China’s movements are going in one direction to position itself as the environmental leader on the world stage, Williams continues.
The new cities that China is building are part of the ” green revolution ” of which Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke last September during the UN General Assembly. It must be remembered that China is the largest source of CO2 in the world, responsible for around 28% of global emissions. And that, due to the pandemic, global climate negotiations are stalled and the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) postponed until November 2021.
In this context, the Chinese leader promised that his country would reach the cap on carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve neutrality in its emissions in 40 years. That is to say, from 2060 the second world power will not release additional CO2 into the atmosphere. The carbon neutrality to which Xi Jinping has referred is achieved when the same amount of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere from which it is removed in different ways.
It is the first time that the largest emitter of carbon dioxide – according to the latest specific data, those of 2019, emissions in China were 11,535,200 kilotonnes, 3.39% more than in 2018 – mentioned its concrete plans to achieve the so-called “zero footprints”. Although the Asian giant has been championing the leadership of renewable energies for years and adapting each year a firmer public position on climate action.
China will increase its planned nationally determined contributions by adopting stronger policies and measures,” said Xi, also urging other countries to seek a “green recovery of the world economy in the post-Covid era, building on the historic opportunities presented by the new round of the scientific and technological revolution. ”
China’s most visible green revolution began in its fight to remove the smog that washed over cities like Beijing, dominated by coal-burning and motor vehicles, every day. In 2013, Beijing adopted more systematic and intensive measures to control air pollution. According to a report by the United Nations Environment Program, which analyzes pollution control for 20 years in Beijing, at the end of 2017, fine particle pollution (PM2.5) was reduced by 35% .”Much of this reduction came from measures to control coal-fired boilers, provide cleaner domestic fuels, and industrial restructuring. During this period, annual emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter ( PM10), and volatile organic compounds in Beijing decreased by 83%, 43%, 55%, and 42%, respectively, “the report said.
The Chinese government assures that it is fighting to close coal mines to bet on a cleaner energy transition. According to reports from the China National Coal Association last year, authorities inspected 159,000 mines, ordered a halt to production at 6,210, canceled production licenses for 929 mining operations, and issued fines totaling 1,327 million yuan (167 million euros). On the other hand, according to the documents of the National Energy Administration, the production of 141 million tons of coal was authorized, increasing 2.6% over the previous year.