The design for Italian architect Stefano Boeri’s ambitious “forest city” in Shijiazhuang, the smoggy capital of Hebei.
In its latest attempt of trying to establish itself as the world’s leading power in sustainability and green energy, China is now planning to build 285 “eco-cities” across the country.
Currently, 80% of prefectural-level Chinese cities supposedly have a green urban development in the works, and it’s estimated that soon more than half of all new urban developments will be “green,” “eco” or “smart,” according to Wade Shepard writing in Forbes.
This is all made possible by China’s move towards “green bonds” which have been supported by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) since March. The bonds are aimed at helping regional governments finance “eco-cities” and other environmental-friendly projects.
In a country where smog kills millions and environmental regulations are difficult to enforce, this program is aimed at helping the government reduce pollution and ultimately turn China into the world’s leader in green energy.
Still, this surge in “eco-city” development is not without its skeptics. For one, Jiaotong-Liverpool University professor Austin Williams who thinks that due to the lack of a formal definition of “eco-city,” the phrase can be rather widely interpreted by local authorities with governments using the prefix to justify further urbanization while doing the bare minimum to help the environment.
“In the West, eco-cities are about nature: carbon reduction, restricting cars, minimizing consumption, and restraint; while in China they are still about people, economic growth, improved conditions, better mobility, and social progress,” Williams told Forbes. China’s eco-cities are simply intended to be much-needed urban improvements and infrastructural development with an eco-prefix.”
In other words, while China may soon boast hundreds of “eco-cities” around the country, don’t expect them to look quite like Italian architect Stefano Boeri’s planned “forest cities,” the first of which is already under construction in Guangxi.
Nor is this initiative without its predecessors in the country. China has pushed for building sustainable urban areas in the past as well, without much success. Let’s hope, for the Earth’s sake, that things will go better this time around.
By Máté Mohos
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