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Sino-German Urbanization Partnership strengthening around sustainable urban development

Under the umbrella of the Sino-German Urbanization Partnership, German and Chinese high-level representatives from the Ministries of Environment and local authorities gathered in Berlin on 31 May for the second edition of the Sustainable Urban China conference at Metropolitan Solutions 2016. Committed to learning from each other, participants to the conference presented local examples and discussed nature-based solutions and Sponge Cities, eco-cities and energy transformation as well as municipal finance and investment as three main themes for accelerating sustainable urban development.

The conference opened with high-level keynotes from Yang Rong, Director General of the Department of Buiding Energy Efficiency, Science and Technology from the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and Karsten Sach, Director General of the Climate Policy, European and International Policy from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, followed by ICLEI Secretary General, Gino Van Begin.

The conference participants witnessed the formal signing of a new partnership between the German Energy Agency Dena and the City of Deyang, and ICLEI was proud to officially welcome Foshan New City as the most recent Chinese ICLEI Member.

Nature-based Solutions

Presentations provided expert perspectives on the multiple benefits from nature-based solutions for cities. On the German side, speakers highlighted the many ecosystem services provided by urban nature to answer current urban challenges. They also stressed the lack of consideration of ecosystem services in municipal decision-making processes despite their high economic value. Chinese speakers then presented the concept of nature-based solutions in the Chinese context, introducing the Chinese concept of Sponge Cities. Implemented in 30 pilot cities in China, Sponge City projects offer a model for cities to use green infrastructure to manage storm water, including a possibility to reuse the water collected after purifying it.

The whole session was punctuated by local examples of the implementation of such strategies based on green and blue infrastructure. The cities of Essen and Guangzhou presented projects of river revitalization in Germany and China. Both cities have rehabilitated ancient water streams, providing the city with more capacity for managing storm water as well as new public spaces for recreational purposes.  The City of Dresden presented its flood prevention strategy, which involves creating more green areas to allow water retention combined with grey infrastructure as a backup strategy.

Eco-cities and Energy Transformation

During the afternoon session, speakers discussed strategies cities can employ to achieve their emission reduction goals through solutions such as sustainable buildings, low carbon transportation and renewable energy. Chinese representatives presented successful examples, demonstrating rapid achievements in terms of emission reduction and declared having higher ambitions for the coming years.

Municipal Financing and Investment

Speakers presented innovative solutions for addressing the challenge municipalities face in accessing finance for sustainability projects. Several experts and representatives of international development banks discussed the different tools available for municipalities to finance sustainable urban development. Magnus Borelius, representing the City of Gothenburg presented their local experience of issuing green bonds to finance Gothenburg’s sustainable urban development.

ICLEI was proud to welcome speakers from China and Germany to help move forward the sustainable urban development agenda in these two countries.

Download the program of the conference here.