For a vast continental state like China, it is an essential step in the national fight against climate change to establish low-carbon provinces, regions, and large-scale cities for various piloting programs since local mitigation efforts can be more effectively managed based on regional industry make-up and local climate and socioeconomic factors and, therefore, be the necessary predecessor to nationwide action. Places like California (the United States), Vancouver (Canada), Vaxjo (Sweden), and Masdar City, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) have taken the lead in formulating aggressive low-carbon or even carbon-neutral plans that support sustainable economic development and a green lifestyle. No nation, however, has been setting up low-carbon regions or cities on the scale that China is currently undertaking, where massive urbanization and industrialization have precipitated enormous opportunities to create green economic clusters and stimulated serious environmental risks linked with increasing production and consumption simultaneously. The Chinese government announced its low-carbon pilot provinces and cities program in 2010, which covered five provinces, including Guangdong, Liaoning, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Yunnan and eight cities, including Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Nanchang, Guiyang, Baoding, and Hangzhou (People’s Daily Online 2010a). According to the National Development and Reform Commission that launched the program, the experimental areas should include the work on climate change in the local five-year plans and establish operational goals, major tasks, and specific measures of controlling local emissions of greenhouse gases. Among the eight pilot cities, Tianjin has been placed first in the pecking order, which usually implies prioritized importance in China’s political context. Tianjin, as a low-carbon model city, also attracted international attention when Japan’s trade minister, Masayuki Naoshima said, in an APEC ministerial meeting in June 2010, that Tianjin may be chosen as APEC’s first low-carbon city to test new technology including smart grids and renewable-power generation as part of efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (Bloomberg News 2010). Actually, Tianjin’s low-carbon effort had begun long before it was officially chosen as a model city for pioneering climate and energy programs, with past experiences having demonstrated that designated low-carbon cities and regions can help to create a friendly environment for the
creation and deployment of low-carbon technologies in buildings, transport, infrastructure, energy utilization, and industrial production, which represent leading economic opportunities and replicable models of sustainable development.