Kunming has long enjoyed a reputation around China as having a mild climate and fresh air. While the latter part of that characterization has been put to the test in recent years by an almost rabid obsession with construction, it appears municipal officials are attempting to establish a newfound commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly growth.
A new report released over the weekend by website Kunming Harbor outlines in very broad strokes how the Spring City plans to embrace a low-carbon blueprint for many sectors of its economy. Although not an all-encompassing strategy, the plan does touch on everything from attracting low-carbon ventures to "de-emphasizing dependence [...] on outmoded heavy industry".
Taking its cues from policies implemented in sister city Zürich, and building on existing conditions, the Kunming Development and Reform Commission is looking to attract more green businesses and attempt to refocus growth to a more service-based economy. This will involve phasing out "low-end manufacturing" and centering instead on ecotourism, trade and logistics, new energy, retail, green construction, optoelectronics and biotechnology.
Special attention will be payed to exploiting the Kunming's existing renewable resources. One example of this is solar water heating, which in 2013 produced 53 percent of the hot water consumed across the city. The municipality, which sprawls over 21,000 square kilometers, is home to 130 corporations specializing in the development of photovoltaic technology, and that number is expected to grow as the city offers incentives to coax other companies to set up shop here.
Wind power is another key component of what has been referred to as the emerging "sunshine economy". Kunming's energy supply is augmented by six wind farms, according to the Kunming Harbor report. However, an additional 70 similar facilities are under consideration by the government and, if built, would significantly increase green energy generation, which currently accounts for 18 percent of the city's use.
Not merely concerned with industry, the plan also outlines methods to increase Kunming's biomass economy — a concept involving increased green space utilized as a form of low-budget and aesthetically pleasing carbon sequestration. Projects in this vane, such as wetland restoration on the banks of Dianchi Lake and a reforestation campaign on Changchong Mountain are already underway.
Many of the green concepts behind the new policies were generated by 10 million yuan (US$1.63 million) in grant money set aside by the municipal government in 2013 and awarded to companies and individuals with innovative ideas. Out of those grants came pilot programs involving recycling kitchen waste into biofuel and the construction of expanded waste-to-energy plant.
Highlighting the kind of businesses city planners are hoping to attract, it was announced last week that one of China's largest domestic vehicle maker, JAC Motors, will manufacture 3,000 green buses per year at a facility owned and operated by the Kunming Bus Manufacturing Company. It remains unclear if any of these buses will eventually ply Spring City streets.
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