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A Vision for Sustainable, Inclusive and Resilient Chinese Cities, December 1, 2016 Adjust font size:

The launch of UNDP China’s Sustainable Cities Report 2016

An assessment tool for Chinese cities has been developed to measure Chinese cities’ performance on sustainable development, based on a set of measurable indicators ranging from income, education, health to pollution, resource consumption, with an aim to help drive urban development towards a more inclusive and resilient future, says a new urbanization report by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China on December 1 in Beijing.

“The New Urban Agenda, launched during the UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat III), calls for cities to be safer, resilient and more sustainable, to lower carbon emissions and become cleaner and greener, and more inclusive, providing equal opportunities for all,” noted Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.

Launched during the 2016 International Forum on City Happiness and Sustainability in China, the UNDP’s 2016 flagship report on sustainable urban development has established models and methods for the evaluation of urban sustainable development based on the China Sustainable Cities Index, a quantitative and objective evaluation system to assist cities in assessing their sustainability performance based on UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), which has been applied to countries world-wide since 1990. Here it has been deployed at city level alongside the Urban Ecological Input Index (UEII), which measures resource consumption and pollution discharge.

The Report evaluates 35 cities and categorizes them into 4 quadrants: high human development, low ecological input (sustainable); high human development, high ecological input (less sustainable); low human development, low ecological input (less sustainable); low human development, high ecological input (unsustainable). Additionally, the report gives recommendations for development paths for cities depending on their current development stage, whether they need to improve human development, decrease ecological input, or both.

All of China’s major cities score highly on UNDP’s HDI in the report, due to continual investment in health, education and economic growth, meaning all major Chinese cities have reached the same level of development as developed countries globally. However, this has come at the expense of environmental well-being with the overall trend of the 35 cities included in the report consuming more resources and producing more pollution than in past years.

Of the 35 cities evaluated in the report, Beijing, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Qingdao, Dalian, Shenyang, Changsha, and Jinan have taken crucial steps to shift to cleaner energy, investing in cleaner transportation, developing policies to limit sprawl, and improving waste management. The report recommends these efforts now need to be scaled up to include smaller cities that will see the most significant growth over the next few years.

“To tackle the challenges in the process of urbanization, we must pursue sustainable development and ensure that China’s cities are inclusive, safe and resilient. It is essential to balance social development and environmental protection to meet people’s desire for a better and sustainable future” said Zhang Sutang, Vice President of Xinhua News Agency.

In addition, China’s sustainability efforts are examined in three case studies from Foshan and Guangzhou that demonstrate good sustainability practices linked to the indicators included in the Index. The case from Wulong County, Chongqing, shows how the environmental protection policies instituted originally to support the tourism industry have become a driving force behind a wide range of economic development activities.

Sustainable urbanization is a key focal area for UNDP globally and in China. UNDP just released its global Sustainable Urbanization Strategy which sets out UNDP's vision for sustainable, inclusive and resilient cities. In the future UNDP will continue to work with the Chinese Government and partners to promote the 2030 Agenda and New Urban Agenda, and ensure that Chinese cities are at the forefront of the global transition to a more sustainable future.

Commissioned by UNDP and in association with Xinhua Oriental Outlook Weekly, the 2016 Report, entitled the ‘2016 China Sustainable Cities Report: Measuring Ecological and Human Development’, was completed by an expert team comprised by Tongji University and UNDP China, and is the first report to offer recommendations on sustainable urban development in China since the recent Habitat III.