Due to limited resources and environmental capacity at home and abroad, China is impelled to explore a path of sustainable development, which will contribute to development and security at national and international levels. Cities will play an important role in this challenge, because most energy is consumed in cities. In order to protect people and nature from dangerous environmental threats, sustainable development of China's growing cities must become a top priority.
Trend towards rapid urbanization. The number of cities in China has increased from 193 in 1978 to 661 in 2005, among which 54 are so-called mega-cities and 84 are large cities, compared to, respectively, 13 and 27 in 1978. By the end of 2006, the urbanization rate in China was about 43.6% of the population. This rate is rapidly increasing, with 75% of the population estimated to live in cities by 2050.
Heavy industrialization is on the rise. Energy consumption in heavy industries - such as iron and steel, chemicals and energy - accounts for 70% of the total in the industrial sector, and is still growing at a fast pace. Industries themselves represent 70% of China's total energy consumption. Heavy industry provides the goods and products which are increasingly consumed in cities
Energy consumption in cities is increasing rapidly. The energy consumption increase in China's cities does not only result from rapid industrialization, but also from the buildings and transportation sectors. There are 17 billion m2 of buildings in China's urban areas, with 1 billion m2 added each year. China's vehicle population is also growing quickly, having surpassed 150 million by June 2007. In addition, urban energy consumption per capita is estimated to be three times higher than that of rural areas. The annual migration of approximately 10 million people from rural areas to urban centers projects a scenario of continued and rapid increase in urban energy consumption.
Energy consumption causes serious environmental problems in cities. Vehicle emissions remain the biggest source of air pollution in cities. The pollution is the result of factors such as inappropriate urban planning, insufficient public transportation investment, growing vehicle numbers and low gas emission control standards.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to climate change and is creating a series of policies and measures to address the issue. One of the government's initiatives to reduce the country's contribution to climate change was to establish a national target to decrease energy intensity by 20% by 2010. In a move to help China achieve this target, and to facilitate national and international low carbon development, WWF - with the support of local and global partners - will implement a Low Carbon City Initiative (LCCI) in China in the next 5 years.