In an effort to enlist more citizens and businesses in the fight against climate change, China has established its first Urban Low Carbon Institute in the city of Baoding, Hebei.
The institute, led by the city's mayor, was launched two weeks ago by a mix of companies, renewable energy experts and social organizations with two goals: publicizing the importance of a low-carbon lifestyle and helping companies implement eco-friendly strategies to save energy and protect the environment.
Baoding, at the heart of China's "Electric Valley," has been building a reputation as a center of new energy development in China. Its North China Electric Power University and high-tech development zones support some of the country's most successful renewable energy companies, as well as research and development.
Mayor Qun Yu says the city has made great strides toward encouraging solar and wind power develop and building an eco-friendly "solar energy city." In addition, Baoding is one of 21 demonstration cities for LED lighting that aim to reduce 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Still, China's government sees a need to do more to publicize the importance of reducing carbon emissions.
The results of a recent survey of students and young professionals conducted by the British Council and the mainstream website sohu.com help explain why:
While 75% of China's young professionals believe China is suffering the effects of climate change, only 25% of them are confident enough to say that they know how they can help deal with these problems.
Most are willing to take some measures, as long as those measures don't affect their current living standard: 77% are willing to buy environmentally friendly products, 75% are willing to reduce daily rubbish, and 69% want to increase the recycling rate of daily stuffs, but only 40% agree to decrease their flying times, and only 34% agree to eat less meat.
As the president of Beijing Environmental Science Institute has put it, many people are well aware of how to save water and energy, however, very few stick to doing it. For instance, almost everybody knows that walk or taking a bus instead of driving a private car is better for the environment; but most people still prefer the convenience of having a car.
Thus, the central government believes more public education is vital to solve the problems of climate change. Boading's Low-Carbon Institute is one step in that direction.
The government has tried some creative methods to spread the word, such as turning Expo 2010 into a demonstration of sustainability and low-carbon energy.
With the theme, "Better city, better life", Shanghai 2010 Expo is designed to use solar energy, river water-source heat pump technology, semiconductor lighting technology and clean energy vehicles. Its buildings will also demonstrate energy-saving techniques.
Consider the Chinese exhibition hall: the designers plan to use solar energy batteries and a rain water collection system. The hall is expected to save 25% more power than the other, traditional Chinese buildings.
The government is also reaching out to students.
China has held several environmental contests among college students, which not only help enhance students' awareness of energy use and climate change, but also inspire creative solutions to environmental problems.
One example is the Save Energy and Reduce Emission Creativity Contest among college students in Shanghai. Ideas that are effective and attainable can gain financial backing from sponsors to turn designs into reality. One student entry proposed a "Nervous System for carbon control in the library," an automatic control system to reduce emission of carbon dioxide and cut the overuse of electricity in libraries.
"We love this kind of activities as it offers us an opportunity to make our green ideas into reality and we are getting more closer to the key of the environmental issues," said Yue Zhang, a student from East China Normal University, who participated in the contest.
Photo: Mayor Qun Yu tours a wind turbine plant (Baoding Huide Wind Power Engineering)