Jilin City

In 2008, China’s National Development and Reform Commission selected Jilin City Municipal Area as the first low carbon zone pilot research area. It is one of China’s oldest cities with a current population of 4.5 million spread across urban and rural areas. Jilin City has a long tradition of heavy industry and no history of environmental policy.  So the low carbon transition is a challenge certain to produce improvement. Achieving a low carbon economy there, and demonstrating real benefits to local development, would send a powerful message to industrial areas around the world that also seek high-value, sustainable growth (Chatham House, p.17).

Among the first steps is to provide a technical upgrade to industrial production equipment by replacing outdated machines.  Source renewable and low carbon energy and begin to replace old inefficient buildings.  Address transportation issues by expanding public system and encouraging the manufacture and sale of lower carbon vehicles (Chatham House, p.3).

One aim for a low carbon Jilin City could be to accelerate regional investment trade in low carbon goods and services. Regional partners together receive over half the province’s exports while the other major trading blocs, the EU and the US, currently receive around 30% combined. Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are three of the top five investors in Jilin Province, following Germany and the US (Chatham House, p.43).

Another goal converts assets of heavy industry to inputs for the green tech industry. “Producing solar panels, gas-fuelled and electric vehicles, insulation and biofuels will all require a major contribution from the petrochemicals industry (Chatham House, p.33).  Maintaining existing links to other markets will smooth transitions and help to raise program funds.

A variety of multilateral funding is available for low carbon projects and sector initiatives. These include the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), a World Bank-hosted fund (although jointly managed with regional development banks, including the Asian Development Bank) but funded through bilateral contributions of more than $6 billion from individual countries.

Chinese cities begin to explore municipal finance reform options that include the issuance of municipal bonds. The World Bank Treasury offers technical assistance in the development of Green Bonds. For Chinese cities, issuing Green Bonds is an opportunity to signal to the financial markets a commitment to pursue sustainable and low-carbon development (World Bank Treasury).

Moving forward, financing a low-carbon city requires significant innovation in terms of developing suitable financing instruments. These instruments can only provide an initial basis for cities to address the low-carbon financing challenges.  (Baeumler, loc10824).  But these investments will have an immediate return. Key renewable energy such as solarpower and hydropower alone would reduce carbon emissions by 20%.  These investments will not only meet the expected increase in demand but also “enable old and inefficient coal-fired generating units to close” (Chatham House, p.36).

If we, as a global society, can find a way to transform Jilin City then we may find a way to transform our own cities. Many key elements appear to be falling into place, but the important question remains. How do we create ambitious, achievable low carbon pathways that can be incorporated into local economic and social development planning while fully reflecting local development goals? (Chatham House, p.9).  Windfarms are now being built.  It’s a start.