Cities - 07/October/2019

Size is everything

Beijing determined to slash energy use in buildings

China continues to urbanise rapidly. Buildings are now the fastest growing source of energy consumption and carbon emissions in the country. Capital city Beijing, one of 23 pioneering Chinese cities aiming to peak emissions by 2030, is leading action to reduce energy leaks and pollution from buildings

Since the turn of the twentieth century China’s cities have changed out of all recognition. Massive economic and population growth have led to the clearance of hutongs, traditional interlocking courtyard houses, to make way for soaring skyscrapers. The growth comes at a price, however. By 2016, China’s building sector accounted for around 20% of the country’s total primary energy consumption and 25% of its greenhouse gas emissions, with buildings in urban areas responsible for the lion’s share.

Buildings are the fastest growing source of energy consumption and carbon emissions in China and could account for as much as 40% of total energy consumption in the next 15 years as the country continues to urbanise. In Beijing, buildings are already responsible for nearly 50% of total energy consumption. But change is on the way as cities work to stop the runaway energy consumption their growth has entailed.

The whole of China has experienced soaring economic growth and rapid urbanisation in recent years. The percentage of people living in urban areas increased from less than 20% in the late 1970s to nearly 60% by 2016, according to the China Statistics Yearbook. Urbanisation is set to continue with a further 255 million people expected to migrate to urban areas in the next 30 years. By 2030, over 70% of China’s population will live in towns and cities, of which 173 are expected to contain more than one million inhabitants. A building boom accompanied the country’s population growth, which has exploded to more than 1.4 billion out of a total world population heading for eight billion.
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This article is part of our special series looking indepth at how cities hold the key to the energy transition. All stories in the series will appear on our website and in the latest edition of our magazine to be published at the beginning of October 2019.

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