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China's Population Challenge: Designing Sustainable Cities for the Future

This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

Between meetings with President Obama this week, China’s vice president and leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping will make time to visit Iowa farm country. Back at home, cities– not the countryside– will likely dominate Xi’s domestic agenda.

In a momentous shift, more people in China now live in cities and towns than in rural areas. Forty years ago, eight in ten people in the world’s most populous country were peasant farmers, living off the land. Today, 51 percent of its 1.35 billion people live in sprawling cities, with high-rise skylines.

China surpassed this milestone in a fraction of the time it took Western Europe to shift from rural to urban societies. Nor is it alone. A similar exodus is taking place across Africa and Asia, prompting the United Nations Population Fund to estimate that almost 5 billion people worldwide will live in cities and towns by 2030, up from around 3.5 billion in 2010. This transformative shift in human society offers both big challenges and great promise for sustainable development.

2012: A Breakthrough for Renewable Energy?

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

In his annual State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “I will not walk away from clean energy.”

His words were a sharp rebuttal to critics harping on the Solyndra bankruptcy and others making dire predictions about the downfall of the renewable energy industry.

So, who is right? Will 2012 be a breakthrough year for renewable, or will it collapse?

The Role Of Cities In Meeting China’s Carbon Intensity Goal

Part 3: Methodologies and Analytical Tools for Low-carbon City Planning

This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.

In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presented low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 explored some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 presents different tools to address these challenges.

The Program of Energy and Climate Economics (PECE) at Renmin University of China has developed a toolkit for low carbon city planning based on its experience working at the city level. These analytical tools have been employed in the Asian Development Bank Qingdao Low Carbon City Project (mentioned in part 2 of this series), and are described below.

U.S.-China Collaboration on Sustainable Urbanization

This post originally appeared on the ChinaFAQs website.

A group of government officials from China traveled on a study tour in the United States last week. The tour, hosted by the World Resources Institute, focused on low carbon development. The delegation was led by Director General Su Wei of the Department of Climate Change from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), who is China’s chief negotiator on climate change and a key decision maker for low-carbon development initiatives.

Q & A with Tao Zhang: Scaling Up Impact Investing in China

Opportunities in China for impact investing are growing, where investors look to create positive social and environmental benefits alongside returns. Impact investors actively choose to put their money into companies that address social and environmental issues through their business models. Tao Zhang, the Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship with local operations in China and five other high growth markets, answers questions on the country’s current investment climate for environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Three Ideas That Are Good for Both Economy and Environment

This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.

As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

China At Durban: First Steps Toward a New Climate Agreement

This post originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.

The UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, concluded over the weekend with a consensus to negotiate an agreement that will include all major emitters of warming gases. The conference agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, extended the work of the group for Long-term Cooperative Action, and most significantly established new negotiations under the Durban Platform. Launching these negotiations was hailed as major progress around the world (Bloomberg, The Statesman, Xinhua). For the first time the world’s three major emitters (by total amount of greenhouse gases emitted), China, the United States and India, have agreed to begin negotiations for an international “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,” indicating that there will be actions and efforts by all countries. (For the implications of this complex legal wording, see my colleague Jake Werksman’s discussion on WRI Insights).

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