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Co-design for Urbanization in China and Asia-Pacific

China and the Asia-Pacific region are experiencing the world’s most rapid urbanization, with the urban population of China expected to climb to over a billion people in the 2030s. The challenges posed for the environment are clear: an increase in the concentration of people brings with it an increase in waste of all kinds, posing challenges for disposal and management, and land use changes, altering the landscape and biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nutrients.

However, cities and urban systems are complex and their development is never controlled by a single institution or group of actors. A sophisticated understanding of the multiple drivers influencing urbanization is needed to move towards sustainable urban development. It was with this aim in mind that an International Symposium on Co-design for Urbanization in China and Asia-Pacific Region was held in Xiamen, China from 20th to 23rd October, 2015. The inclusion of ‘co-design’ in the title is important: organizers set out to bring together representatives from natural and social sciences, governments, funding agencies and other stakeholders including medical doctors, the media and architects, to develop a set of co-designed research priorities and working partnerships that could deliver sustainable urban development in China and the Asia-Pacific Region.

Paul Shrivastava, Executive Director of Future Earth, with CAS member and Vice-Chair of CNC-FE Prof Bojie Fu (Photo: Jin Li)

Discussions at the Symposium centred around the following themes:

  • Urban systems dynamics and rural-urban linkages to inform development strategies for sustainability
  • Impacts of urbanization on climate change and of climate change on cities
  • Linking adaptation and mitigation actions for climate resilient, low carbon cities
  • Drivers of ecosystem health and human wellbeing in urban environments
  • Social and institutional responses for urban sustainability transitions

Chaired by Prof. Guoxiong Wu  from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics/Chinese Academy of Sciences, the plenary session covered a wide range of topics, including plans for urban research under Future Earth, suggestions for low-carbon urbanization, urban resilience planning and the ecological effects of urbanization delivered respectively by Chair of Future Earth Science Committee Dr Mark Stafford-Smith, Vice Chair of the Future Earth National Committee for China (CNC-FE) Professor Xiangwan Du, Chief Executive Officer of the Ecological Sequestration Trust Professor Peter Head and Vice Chair of CNC-FE Professor Bojie Fu.

Following fruitful discussions at the Symposium, a statement has been issued to help better understand how people value nature, culture and social inputs and how to include all kind of value, including ‘hidden’ costs/benefits, into monitoring and assessment of alternative urbanization pathways at different scales.

Attendees at the Symposium

The Symposium brought together nearly 100 attendees from across Future Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China Association for Science and Technology, Chinese National Committee for Future Earth, China Meteorological Administration, Xiamen Municipal Government, Tongxiang Municipal Government, Ecological Sequestration Trust, ICSU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, ICSU-IAMP-UNU Programme on Urban Health and Wellbeing: A Systems Analysis Approach, Australian National University, Guangzhou Pearl River Foreign Investment Architectural Designing Institute Ltd., University of East Anglia, Stockholm University, the Academy of Sciences located in Taipei, China, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, United Nations University, and Tencent Research Institute.

It was hosted by the Chinese National Committee for Future Earth (CNC-FE), located at the State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modelling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Institute of Urban Environment and Fujian Association for Science and Technology. Professor Dahe Qin, Vice President of CAST, Member of the Future Earth Science Committee and Chair of CNC-FE, Deputy Secretary-General of the CAS and the Director General of the CAS Bureau of International Cooperation Professor Tieniu Tan, and Senior Vice-Mayor of Xiamen Municipal Government Mr Yunfeng Zheng delivered the welcome address.

The symposium was held under the framework of CAS (Chinese  International Cooperation Project on “Co-design of Implementation Plan for Future Earth in China”, and was also supported by CASAD Consultation Project on Sustainable Development.

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