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The International Green Model City Initiative: Facilitate the Transformation of Chinese Cities from Quantity-driven Growth to Quality-oriented Sustainable Development
Source: | Author:gfhsforum | Published time: 2018-07-24 | 1508 Views | Share:

A Speech at the Opening Ceremony of International Green Model City Forum of the 14th International Conference on Green and Energy-Efficient Building by Mr. Lu Haifeng, the Secretary General of Global Forum on Human Settlements and the President of Shenzhen Better City Institute

April 3, 2018 Zhuhai City, China

Mr. Lu Haifeng is delivering speech at the opening

Mr. Lu Haifeng is delivering speech at the opening

Today’s forum focuses on the sharing of strategies of the International Green Model City Initiative and its standards, and discusses the roles of this initiative and its standards should play in facilitating the transformation of Chinese cities from quantity-driven growth to qualityoriented sustainable development in order to enhance exchanges and cooperation. This forum echos the theme of this year’s International Conference on Green and Energy-Efficient Building.

The city is a home for human beings as well as a carrier of economy, society and civilization, which includes many dimensions like space, economy,society, environment and culture. As the quality of cities features integration and multi-dimension, it is necessary to underscore the significance of both hardware and software, efficiency and equity as well as the need to benefit the present and future generations. Simply put, a high-quality sustainable development of cities means a better life for the present and future generations.

Opening Ceremony of the Fourteenth International Conference on Green and

Energy-Efficient Building & New Technologies and Products Expo

Since the founding of People’s Republic of China, especially the reform and opening up, the urban planning, construction and management in China has made remarkable achievements, earning worldwide attention. From 1978 to 2017, the number of cities increased from 193 to 661, the permanent resident population in urban areas increased from 170 million to 810 million, while the
urbanization rate rose from 17.9% to 58.5% with an average annual growth rate of 1.02 percentage and the urbanization rate of registered population was 42.35%. At the same time, urban development in China also encountered challenges including the blind pursuit of scale expansion, extensive and imbalanced development, which requires a transformation from a high-speed quantity-driven growth model to a qualityoriented sustainable development. It is the right time to implement this significant initiative in China.

First of all, let us recall the domestic and international background as well as relevant policy trends. There are four important domestic documents or guidelines that deserve our attention:

The National Plan on New Urbanization (2014-2020) pointed out that urbanization in China has been proceeding amid a dense population, relatively scarce resources and fragile ecological environment as well as imbalanced urban-rural development. In the past 35 years (1978-2013), extensive and imbalanced urbanization had six major drawbacks. Now it is necessary to develop a new-type urbanization with Chinese characteristics. Namely, China’s new-type urbanization should be people-oriented. The urbanization should develop in step with industrialization, nformatization, and agricultural modernization. The layout should be optimized. It should be eco-friendly and carry forward China’s cultural traditions. The core of a new-type urbanization lies in its nature of being people-oriented and the key to improve quality of cities.

The Central Work Conference on City Affairs held in December 2015 pointed out that there are still seven prominent problems in urban planning, construction and management: such as a lack of foresight, seriousness, compulsory and transparency in urban planning; a blind pursuit of scale expansion in urban construction without economical intensive land use and resource efficiency and so on. The conference proposed to pursue intensive development and establish the concept of “smart growth” and “compact city” and to demarcate the boundaries of urban development effectively, which boost the transformation of urban development from external expansion to internal development. China's urban development has ushered in a “turning point” from quantity-driven growth to quality-oriented development.

The 19th National Congress of CPC opened a new era of sustainable development in China. The report pointed out that building an ecological civilization is vital to sustain the Chinese nation’s development. We must realize that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets and act on this understanding. We must also implement our fundamental national policy of conserving resources and protecting the environment… We should strengthen green development. We should develop spatial layouts, industrial structures and ways of work and life that help conserve resources and protect the environment…

The Report on the Work of the Government in 2018 put forward to pursue better-quality new urbanization.

Internationally, the world is entering an era of rapid and irreversible urbanization, which is unprecedented in history. Cities have become the main battlefield for a key to sustainable development. There are two major agendas that deserve our attention:

Adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the UN headquarters

In September 2015, 193 member states adopted a programmatic document entitled Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 specific targets in the hope to achieve three unprecedented and extraordinary initiatives around the world in the next 15 years: to eradicate extreme verty,overcome inequality and injustice as well as to curb climate change. The Goal 11 indicates “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and includes 10 specific targets. The vast majority of members states, including China, are devoting themselves to achieving these development goals by 2030.

In October 2016, the Habitat III Conference adopted the New Urban Agenda, a programmatic document for guiding the sustainable urban development around the world in the next 20 years. It stresses that we need to readdress the way we plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities and human settlements, highlighting that sustainable cities and human settlements are not only the key to the realization of sustainable development for human beings, but also a historic opportunity. This Agenda puts forward our shared vision of cities for all: referring to the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able  to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all. The Agenda proposes to achieve this vision by establishing an innovative framework for urban governance and effectively planning and managing urban spatial development.

After looking back at the background of the times and policy trends, I would like to briefly share with you the basic content of the International Green Model City Initiative and its standards for your reference. The experts will share with you more wonderful information afterwards.

Based on the reflection of the time background and policy trends, the Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) launched the International Green Model City (IGMC for short) Initiative in response to the grave challenges of rapid urbanization all over the world, at the UN headquarters in April, 2011, supported by international organizations like UNEP and other national and local governments. The Initiative never stops improving itself to keep up with the times.

During the "Habitat III" in October 2016, the International Green Model City (IGMC) Standard 3.0 was released

in Quito, the  capital of Ecuador, and the second to the right of the rostrum is Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif

As a UN-supported and innovative green lowcarbon action plan for urban development, the IGMC initiative motivates forward-looking governments, businesses and the civil society to work together in order to build sustainable cities and human settlements for all, to facilitate transformation of Chinese cities from quantity-driven growth to quality-oriented sustainable development and to promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement and the New Urban Agenda at the regional and local levels.

Currently, some well-known cities and enterprises have joined the IGMC Initiative, such as Vancouver (Canada), Cape Town (South Africa), Mannheim (Germany), Seberang Perai (Malaysia), Cuenca (Ecuador),Liuyang National Economic & Technical Development Zone, Wuyi County of Zhejiang Province, China Railway Real Estate Group, Vanke, Country Garden and Mission
Hills. Some of them have also been on the list of IGMC pilots.

The IGMC Standards 3.0 is an advanced tool for assessing and guiding sustainable urban development. Released in Quito, the capital of Ecuador during the Habitat III Conference in 2016, it is a set of effective strategy documents including the evaluation and certification system compiled by renowned Chinese and foreign experts on the basis of summarizing the rules and many ccessful experiences of Chinese and foreign urban planning and construction. It bears universal significance and reference value. There are already a number of well-known green cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Vienna, Mannheim, Freiburg, Singapore, New York, Portland, Vancouver, Curitiba, and Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, Lijiang of Yunnan province and Wuxi of Jiangsu province and Jiangshan of Zhejiang province that have fully or partly integrated the strategies of IGMC standards, achieving a higher level of sustainable  development.

Rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda, the vision of "IGMC Standards 3.0" is based on six basic principles: Safety, Sustainability, Equity, Identity, Prosperity and Happiness, and is carried out through the 18 categories of the six dimensions of spatial planning and development, basic services, environment, economy, society and culture. Furthermore, the 18 categories are further elaborated in terms of definitions and aims, key strategies and methodologies, key indicators, scoring systems and best practices. It is written in both English and Chinese.

IGMC initiative focuses on strategies and actions that can improve a city’s sustainability performance. IGMC 3.0 builds on a comprehensive Four-Lever approach of environmental, low-carbon, and resources multiplicative efficiency:

First, compact urban growth with higher densities, contiguous development, spatial restructuring of the urban form so as to reduce demands on energy and resources on a large scale;

Second, continuously reducing demands by Liveable, functionally and socially mixed neighbourhoods;

Third, smart technologies, energy-efficient buildings and urban basic services systems to increase resource efficiency;

Fourth, promoting sustainable behaviors and green lifestyles to further increase efficiency.

The actual improvements in energy and resource productivity of each of these interventions are not simply the sum of each intervention, but are ‘multiplicative’ if they are implemented in mutually reinforcing ways. They decrease resource use while increasing prosperity and wellbeing. They are aimed at the planning stage, where the greatest opportunities lie in.

The IGMC assessment and certification system was developed based on the recommendations of United Nations Human Settlements Programme and the UN Environment Program in reference to relevant Chinese and foreign policies, regulations and best practices. There are a total score of 320 points with a city version of 112 indicators and a community version of 109 indicators.
A certified city or project will be granted the following titles based on its total score:

≥ 280 points: International the greatest model city/community
≥ 245 points: International greener model city/community
≥ 210 points: International green model city/community

 IGMC Online Assessment and Certification System

Based on IGMC Standards 3.0, we have developed an IGMC Global Online Assessment and Certification System at, an online method to make assessment and certification, collect and analyze data as well as serve IGMC members and promote IGMC standards. The system makes the complicated assessment and certification on cities and communities a simple and easy one for all. The English version has been put into trial operation and the Chinese version is expected to be put online in July. You are welcomed to try it out.

To sum up, the major roles of IGMC Standard 3.0 are the following:
First, assessing sustainability of existing urban areas, identifying opportunities for improvement and transformation;
Second, helping governments formulate policies and action plans as well as guiding them in planning and construction for stronger competitiveness and promoting implementation of SGDs and the New Urban Agenda;
Third, guiding the process of urban sustainable development projects for improving overall performance and efficient investment;
Fourth, appraising projects at planning or design phases to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement and avoid various risks;
Fifth, providing a timely urban sustainable development training manual for relevant stakeholders.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “A workman must first sharpen his tools if he is to do his work well”, the principles and standards of the IGMC initiative are consistent with a series of policies and guidelines for the building of ecological civilization, a new-type urbanization and green development in China, providing not only a comprehensive strategy for China’s urban transformation  and upgrading and sustainable development, but also a technical support and assessment tools for better planning and construction of cities or large-scale development projects. We join both domestic and international think tanks and professional organizations to set up a team of first-class experts to provide consulting services for those in need. For those cities and companies that are interested, you are welcomed to join the IGMC initiative and apply for the IGMC pilots so that we can interact and learn from each other. Together, we build and share the IGMC new partnership, create and enhance the value of cities or projects in order to improve the green low-carbon towns including the distinctive towns and achieve a high-quality sustainable development of cities, delivering a better life for the present and future generations.

We are also fully aware that the development of IGMC standards and initiatives is a process of continuous improvement. They are yet to be well-developed, which still need adjustment and improvement in practice and participation, support and contribution by all industry leaders and stakeholders. To this end, we have established the IGMC expert committee and the IGMC  advisory committee to play an active role. We welcome all experts, partners and friends to be an active participant and have mutual interaction for common progress.

The Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) is a non-governmental and non-profit international organization registered in the State of New York, and has been granted the Special Consultative Status with UN Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC). GFHS is committed to sustainable cities and human settlements for all and building of a dialogue platform for sustainable cities around the world. Thanks to the strong support of numerous partners, the annual session of Global Forum on Human Settlements has been successfully held in China, the United States, Brazil, Germany, Columbia and Ecuador for consecutive 12 times, contributing to the formulation and promotion of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda. The Forum actively seeks for more extensive and in-depth cooperation with local governments at all levels, investment and development enterprises, green companies, planning and design think tanks to share the cutting-edge information and best practices, such as the latest international policies and technology in the hope of complementing each other and seizing opportunities. Under the guidance of relevant national departments and policies, the Forum contributes to the transformation of Chinese cities from quantity-driven growth to qualityoriented sustainable development and carries forward the IGMC initiative.

This year’s annual session of Global Forum on Human Settlements is scheduled to be held at the end of the October at the UN Conference Center in Bangkok, Thailand. The theme of the conference is: Advancing Urban Innovation and Implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the New Urban Agenda. Besides, the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award Ceremony will be held at the same time. The IGMC initiative and standards will be the key of this event. I welcome all of you to keep following it.

UN Conference, Bangkok, Thailand