Expert on special government allowance of the State Council, academician of the German Academy of Engineering, academician of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering, chief planner of China’s 2010 Shanghai World Expo Park, and chief planner of the comprehensive urban design scheme of Beijing Sub Center. The first convener of the urban and rural planning discipline evaluation group of the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council, once served as former director of the National Urban and Rural Planning Committee, Chairman of the Asian Federation of Planning Institutions, and the first Co-Chairman of the World Federation of Planning Institutions. Co-Chairman of CNEUCN Scientific Committee
Should you pick up a topic, among the several which characterize your impressive experience that you feel more closely related to the decarbonization mission, which one you could say?
“Carbon neutrality” is an important issue related to the sustainable development of cities, and the sustainable development of cities is a topic that I have been paying attention to and studying in depth. The master’s and doctoral students I trained also pay a lot of attention to cutting-edge research issues in the field of urban energy conservation and ecological green.
In 2009, I published the book “Cities Beyond Oil”, which expounds the exploration of teachers and students in today’s international mainstream planning colleges and universities on sustainable design, especially on urban energy-saving design. This book has been highly recognized by UN Habitat, the Royal Swedish Academy of engineering and the Ministry of housing and urban rural development of China.
During the Shanghai World Expo, in 2010, we introduced many internationally leading energy-saving and emission reduction technologies in site design, architectural design and transformation. After the Expo, I launched a large number of green campus and green building related alliances and activities to promote urban energy conservation, emission reduction and sustainable development.
At the same time, in Tongji University, since 2013, I have presided the “Sustainable Intelligent Urbanization” general elective courses for undergraduates. For eight consecutive years, I have popularized the concept of green and sustainable development to students in all the departments of the University. The course was very popular. Later, it was rated as a national “golden course” and was included in the “learning power” platform.
In recent years, I have set up a carbon neutralization research group in my team to establish a large urban carbon neutralization database, track the carbon emissions and carbon sink data of all cities around the world every day, and evaluate the carbon neutralization capacity of cities. We will also release the city carbon neutralization index leading edge report (City CQ) to the world this year.
Based on your academic and professional background, what is the main contribution you feel to provide to the worldwide urgency to reduce greenhouse gasses emission?
My team and I have been committed to collecting data on urban development for more than 20 years, discover a series of regular pattern of urban development with data mining. We have successfully identified all the community areas in the world by using artificial intelligence technologies such as image recognition, and the number of cities in the world has reached 13861. Taking these 13861 cities as the base, we have built the largest urban database in the world at present, and use these data to mine the laws of urban development and recently, our team has collectively tackled the law of urban carbon emissions and carbon sinks. It can be said that urbanization and carbon emissions are closely related. Our team has achieved the accuracy of urban carbon neutrality analysis to every square meter, every tree and every house, and calculated the carbon emission and carbon sink capacity of each city. Not long ago, our latest CQ ranking of 700 cities in the world was released to the world, achieving five breakthroughs worldwide. First, the analysis scale is from country to city, we are talking about every city that constitutes the country. Second, in the past, carbon emissions were measured by individual cities in the world, with an accuracy of only 14%, but now our team’s analysis accuracy has reached 92%. Third, we have accurately analyzed the classification of each industry in the city, so that we can guide cities to achieve carbon neutrality through the allocation of different industries for each city. Fourth, in terms of space, our carbon neutrality diagnosis is accurately configured to each neighborhood, so that urban carbon emissions and carbon sinks can be accurately controlled through urban planning. Fifth, we have mastered the regular pattern of carbon emission and carbon sink of each natural element in the city, such as different water surfaces, floors and buildings.
According to your experience which one are the main challenges China has to face to reach its “dual carbon goal”?
The process of reaching carbon peak is not a straight line rising directly, but a curve rising first and then falling, and cities are an important battlefield to achieve the dual carbon goal. China has a vast territory, and each city has its own characteristics. For example, Shenzhen and Shenyang are completely different. To achieve the dual carbon goal, we must follow China’s own characteristics, uphold the ecological rationality of Chinese civilization, follow the development path of sustainable smart design, green smart innovation, and carry out accurate analysis and development strategy design for the city. Whether we can design such a path of urban green smart innovation is the key to the sustainable development of the city and whether our country can achieve the dual carbon goal faster and better.
China and Europe have a long history of close and fruitful cooperation about climate change and environmental protection issues. Which are the more peculiar strengths of China and Europe in the path towards decarbonization?
After the Expo, relying on Tongji University, my team and the Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University jointly established the China EU Collaborative Innovation Center for intelligent urbanization. Mueller, an academician of the German Academy of engineering of the European team and I, as the project director, specially conducted in-depth research on the future sustainable development of cities, wrote and published research reports every year, and condensed the strength of China and Europe for the better development of cities in China and Europe. Europe’s concern and action on the sustainability of the earth are very leading. When I was a doctoral student in Germany in the 1990s, I saw people live in houses that can realize rainwater recycling, which is more economical and sustainable. I think it is this practical concern and responsibility for the green future of mankind that enables China and Europe to work closely together to create a greener, smarter and innovative urban future.
More specifically, in your sector of competence, which mechanisms and actions could be implemented to create virtuous synergies between China and Europe to reach carbon neutrality?
A: 我们团队持续进行的城市可持续发展的研究，之前做了很多关于碳达峰、碳中和的世界上优秀城市的案例，当时04年的时候，我在沈阳阜新，看到因为煤炭开采造成的土地空洞，心里十分难受，于是促成当地的市委领导 到瑞典合作学习，与瑞典的城市建立姊妹城市的合作关系，为阜新设计了煤炭地质公园和可持续的风能基地，到2013年阜新市全年发电量119亿度，其中34亿度是风电，量上去了，但是对电量的调配和控制是欠缺的，而德国虽然每年的风电发电量比我们少很多，但是可以对并网的电力进行人工智能的精准配置，充分利用好每一度电。
Our team continues to carry out research on urban sustainable development, and we have previously done many cases about excellent cities in the world that are carbon-peak and carbon-neutral. In 2004, when I was in Fuxin, Shenyang, I was very unhappy to see the empty land caused by coal mining. Therefore, I encouraged the local municipal Party Committee leaders to go and study in Sweden and establish a sister-city cooperative relationship with the Swedish city. so as to design a coal geological park and a sustainable wind energy base for Fuxin. By 2013, Fuxin’s annual power generation was 11.9 billion kwh, of which 3.4 billion kwh was wind power, but the allocation and control of power was insufficient. Although Germany’s annual wind power generation is much less than ours, it can accurately configure the grid connected power with artificial intelligence and make full use of every kilowatt hour of power.
Therefore, we need to improve the application of AI and other technologies in the precise allocation of resources. My team has been tackling this aspect. I specially invite Otthein Herzog, academician of the German Academy of engineering and an international top expert of artificial intelligence, to serve as the chief scientist of my team and cooperate with him to make breakthroughs in the precise configuration technology of artificial intelligence. Our technology has now broken through to the ability to use artificial intelligence technology to accurately calculate the carbon emissions of every tree, building and neighborhood. We have also developed an intelligent platform for urban carbon neutrality, which can clearly calculate the carbon emissions generated by every land use scheme and architectural design in urban planning, and allocate the functions of buildings and land specifically to achieve better carbon reduction results. These breakthroughs would not have been possible without China and Europe close cooperation in the field of technology.
Carbon neutrality is a target which required holistic approach and integrated actions by all the stakeholders. It should tackle not only technical matters, but also new economic development model and social aspects. China Europe Carbon Neutral initiative by its Scientific Committee & Expert Advisory Board aims to be a platform to gather these expertise then share potential solution. Which advices and proposal you feel to share for its development and operation
At the back of the development of cities, the competition is the alliance ability of urban communities formed between cities. I am happy to see that China and Europe can work together to gather top expert groups to form an international community to jointly tackle the major issue of “carbon neutrality”, which is related to the common future of mankind. The gathering and discussion of think tanks will surely lead to innovative achievements. If these achievements can be realized as soon as possible, they will play a crucial role in promoting the realization of carbon neutrality. Our team has been tracking and contacting the global carbon neutrality cutting-edge key technologies, applying these cutting-edge technologies to the practice of our urban planning projects, and providing practical technical support for the carbon neutralization and sustainable development of Chinese cities.
At the same time, I sincerely hope that more young people can participate in the action of promoting urban carbon neutrality. China Europe Carbon Neutral’s Scientific Committee and Expert Advisory Board can pay more attention to the carbon neutrality education for our young generation, and cultivate more future leaders to achieve carbon neutrality in our young generation.
Along your impressive carrier as urban planner, you contributed to create worldwide famous project and development. Anyhow now, because of several reasons, (COVID pandemic, 2030/60 dual carbon goal, its urbanization stage maturity) China should get into a different development model. Then what are the key elements of this new planning system that you can foresee?
“家园（Jia Yuan）”一词具有丰富的内涵，包括一些现代社会缺乏却又至关重要的方面。家园既不是缺乏空间特性的“community”，也不是缺乏“家”的内涵的空间概念“neighborhood ”，而是具有其独特的意义，“家园”除了“community”的内涵外，还有精神功能、组织功能、共同财产功能。
By 2020, 60% of the population will already live in cities. China’s urbanization rate is increasing at an average rate of 1% per year. However, pollution and floods are very common in cities, and cities have seen a lot of decline. From SARS in 2003 to the current COVID-19, cities are facing not only natural disasters, but also the reflection of civilization and the return of culture.
I put forward the planning concept of “Homeland”, which includes three elements: natural ecology, people’s needs and intellectual empowerment.
The word “Homeland” has rich connotations, including some aspects that are lacking but crucial in modern society. Homeland is neither a community lacking in spatial characteristics, nor is it the spatial concept of neighborhood that lacks the connotation of “home”, but has its unique significance. In addition to the connotation of community, “homeland” also has spiritual functions, organizational functions and common property functions.
In the next ten years, we must do a good job in the “community” of China’s cities and rural areas, and turn China into a beautiful and happy home. In principle, there is a very important concept of “collective” from “private” to “public”. It is in the “collective” link that we really want to make everyone happy. I think what big cities lack now is this intermediate link and the concept of “homeland”. For example, in traditional China, families near ancestral temples know each other and shared common property, which was very important.
In the planning and design of Beijing Sub Center, we put the concept of “homeland” into practice. The first thing we did is to use natural elements. Every “homeland” is based on the traditional Chinese wisdom of camping. It is in the form of turtle back. The middle is high and the four sides are low, so its drainage just flows to the side naturally. We also make full use of the elements of the wind, consider the southeast wind in Beijing in summer, simulate all these elements of the wind, and then carry out space design to form a natural ventilation corridor to cool and save energy for the urban space of the sub center, and help carbon neutralization.
After using natural factors to lay an ecological foundation, we focus on the needs of the people. Our team interviewed a total of 500 people and took videos to ask them what they hope for, what they need most, and what their life is most eager for in the future. This is particularly important for us. Among these 500 people, there are small vendors, future residents and former residents. After sorting out these videos, we sorted out all the people’s needs in the conversation as the core needs of our “home”, including different age groups and different functions, such as travel, education, employment, intelligence, innovation and so on. In this way, we can clearly put everyone’s needs in our minds and directly use them to design. In “homeland”, we designed the family auditorium, held wedding ceremony, adult ceremony, retirement ceremony, and held interest group activities in the evening, such as flower arrangement group, painting group, housework group, etc., to strengthen the communication and interaction between neighbors.
Urban regeneration is taking more and more importance also in China, where is not more only the time to design new cities. You know very well also the regeneration process which undergone in Europe before. Which are the specific topics where European experts and industries can cooperate and contribute in a bilateral exchange with the Chinese ones.
Cities are living organism, and urban renewal is the inevitable process of metabolic development of cities. In this process, the genes of cities themselves will continue to iterate and new genes will be added. In the past, China’s urban growth has experienced large-scale new construction, and now it is facing more updates. This is an iterative process of urban genes. In this process, cities should be more grafted with the excellent genes in global civilization. On the one hand, cities can continue and expand their own excellent genes, and can face the future to develop a new generation of urban genes and shape a new urban civilization. When I was in Germany, I made many urban renewal designs, including the unification Park of Germany, which transformed the railway tracks previously abandoned due to the division of Germany into comfortable and pleasant green spaces for people’s usual leisure activities. In this process, people’s desire for a better life is a common and constant aspiration. China-EU cooperation in urban renewal can also focus on the design and construction of a better tomorrow for all the mankind.
Urban planning has huge influence on the city inhabitants’ life. How do you make your students fully aware about this responsibility and how you lead them into this this activity which is now even more challenging because of the dual carbon target.
I often tell my students that as urban planners, we are not only designing space, but also creating a better life for people in the future. I always tell my students that in the past we used to use “bird’s-eye” view in our urban planning.
The most fundamental thing of urban development is people. We should look at problems from the perspective of “people”, be people-oriented, serve people, truly feel the needs of the people, and design for the people. Therefore, my requirements for students’ research and practice must have first-hand interviews and research from the people, so as to truly make achievements beneficial to people’s future life.
At present, carbon neutrality is our key topic, which requires the joint efforts of different disciplines. My students come from many different majors. In addition to urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, industrial design, economic management, news media, etc., they are very concerned about the problems in the field of carbon neutrality. According to the students’ strengths and interests, let the students join our carbon neutrality research group and work hard to promote research and practice every week. The students, together with the urban planners and data analysts of our team, communicate, study and jointly research and tackle key problems around the actual urban practice projects and data. The students’ growth is rapid, and they can make very innovative achievements, leading the world.