Beijing Looking to Become a Leader in Sustainable Transport Among Chinese Cities

Workshop examines the potential for new initiatives to combat air pollution and improve quality of life
Aug 11, 2014 12:45 PM ET
Beijing hopes to take the lead in combating rising car ownership, traffic congestion, and air quality to become a model for sustainable urbanization and economic growth in China. Photo by Shreyans Bhansali/Flickr.

Originally published on EMBARQ

Fueled by rapid motorization and urbanization, adverse impacts from the growing urban transport sector in Beijing are looming large. Looking ahead, preparing the city for five million additional residents by 2020 and simultaneously promoting economic growth, providing safe and efficient accessibility, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution presents huge challenges and opportunities for city leaders. Sustainable transport can contribute to each of these targets, helping establish Beijing as a leader in healthy, people-centered urbanization. To that end, improving quality of life through new transport initiatives – especially reducing air pollution and traffic congestion – is a top priority in Beijing’s new “Work Plan for Vehicle Emission Control 2013 – 2017.”

These were all topics of conversation at the Workshop on Sustainable Development of Transportation at the Background of Air Pollution Control, held July 16, 2014 in Beijing. The workshop was organized by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT), with support from the Beijing Transport Energy & Environment Center, Beijing Jiaotong University, and EMBARQ China and was sponsored by FedEx. The workshop aimed to create a platform for Chinese city leaders and international experts to exchange knowledge and best practices to mitigate traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Creating dialogue between Beijing and world cities
Roughly 80 attendees participated in the one-day workshop, including professionals from the New York Department of Transport, Transport for London, Transport Department of the City of Vancouver, and the United Kingdom Department for Transport. These experts provided experiences on new advances in developing sustainable urban transport policies and tactics to involve the public in decision-making processes. This dialogue opportunity laid the foundation for Beijing to identify current policy gaps and seek systematic approaches to mitigate transport-related emissions, drawing from lessons learned in cities across the globe.

Paving the way for sustainable, livable Chinese cities
China’s need for sustainable transport is dire, due to rising pressure from hazardous air pollution and traffic congestion. Car ownership reached 137 million at the end of 2013, and 74 Chinese cities have already reported air pollution surging above the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) for over two thirds of the year. Few cities are facing challenges as extreme as Beijing, and city leaders are responding to the call, with the city quickly becoming an innovator in adopting proactive approaches to sustainable urban mobility.

Beijing was one of the first Chinese cities to build an extensive subway system, and was also an early adopter of vehicle registration quotas. It would become the first city in China to implement low emission zone and congestion pricing. Beijing’s success will hold significant meaning for many other Chinese cities, providing leadership in scaling up sustainable transport solutions across China.

EMBARQ China helps Beijing make sustainable transport a reality

EMBARQ China has been working closely with the BMCT since the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November 2013 that marked a milestone development in EMBARQ China’s strategic partnerships. EMBARQ China and Beijing officials will work together on transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies and plans for implementing low emission zone (LEZ) and congestion pricing schemes, and other sustainable transport planning activities. In June, researchers from EMBARQ China visited London to learn from its successes with low emission zones and congestion pricing. When implemented, Beijing will become the first city in China to enact these policies, which clean the air, reduce congestion, and build social equity.

The Workshop on Sustainable Development of Transportation at the Background of Air Pollution Control received gracious sponsorship from FedEx. EMBARQ and FedEx have been working together for four years with the common goal to improve the quality of life for people in Brazil, India, and Mexico.