In this paper, we discuss walkable cities from the perspective of urban planning and design in the era of digitalization and urban big data. We start with a brief review on historical walkable cities schemes; followed by a deliberation on what a walkable city is and what the spatial elements of a walkable city are; and a discussion on the emerging themes and empirical methods to measure the spatial and urban design features of a walkable city. The first part of this paper looks at key urban design propositions and how they were proposed to promote walkability. The second part of this paper discusses the concept of walkability, which is fundamental to designing a walkable city. We emphasize both the physical (walkways, adjacent uses, space) and the perceived aspects (safety, comfort, enjoyment), and then we look at the variety of spatial elements constituting a walkable city. The third part of this paper looks at the emerging themes for designing walkable cities and neighborhoods. We discuss the application of urban big data enabled by growing computational powers and related empirical methods and interdisciplinary approaches including spatial planning, urban design, urban ecology, and public health. This paper aims to provide a holistic approach toward understanding of urban design and walkability, re-evaluate the spatial elements to build walkable cities, and discuss future policy interventions.
China has large but uncertain coal mine methane (CMM) emissions. Inverse modeling (top-down) analyses of atmospheric methane observations can help improve the emission estimates but require reliable emission patterns as prior information. To serve this urgent need, we developed a high-resolution (0.25° × 0.25°) methane emission inventory for China’s coal mining using a recent publicly available database of more than 10000 coal mines in China for 2011. This number of coal mines is 25 and 2.5 times, respectively, more than the number available in the EDGAR v4.2 and EDGAR v4.3.2 gridded global inventories, which have been extensively used in past inverse analyses. Our inventory shows large differences with the EDGAR v4.2 as well as its more recent version, EDGAR v4.3.2. Our results suggest that China’s CMM emissions have been decreasing since 2012 on the basis of coal mining activities and assuming time-invariant emission factors but that regional trends differ greatly. Use of our inventory as prior information in future inverse modeling analyses can help better quantify CMM emissions as well as more confidently guide the future mitigation of coal to gas in China.
Post-colonial India has experienced rapid urbanization characterized by rural-urban migration and the prosperity of informal settlement in cities. However, urban planning and infrastructure development has paid little attention to the needs of walking accessibility for pedestrians, especially the urban poor and migrants. The goals of “Smart city”-oriented urban policy cover inclusiveness, accessibility, transparency, comfortable, safety, sustainable, etc. In order to find how such emerging policy intervention could help pedestrians, we illustrate non-motorized accessibility challenges and opportunities for migrants and urban poor in Patna and Mumbai through case studies at multiple scales and various aspects. We found that to fulfill the needs of pedestrians not only means providing them adequate facilities but also means embodying the idea of inclusiveness and users’ perceptions into practical methods for enhancing accessibility. Moreover, informality makes the vision of smart cities more complex in the two cities, which implies the significance to hearing the diverse grassroots opinions by applying “smart” governance concept as well as innovative technologies for collecting data of accessibility of different social groups.
The relationship between dense urban development, often represented by high-rise buildings, and its location vis-à-vis metro stations reflects the connection between transportation infrastructure and land use intensity. Existing literature on high-rise buildings has focused either on developed countries or on cities where urban and public transit developments have occurred in an uncoordinated manner. This paper examines the following questions: What is the spatial proximity and spatial correlation between high-rise buildings and metro stations in different stages of development in various parts of the city? What were some of the factors that resulted in the observed patterns? The results suggest that buildings constructed after 2000 and buildings within the urban core/Shanghai Proper districts had a greater spatial proximity to the metro stations. However, the spatial correlation, measured by the number of high-rise buildings within a 500-meter buffer from the nearest metro stations and the time-distance to these stations, is stronger in the outer districts than in the urban core. These differences can be accounted for by Shanghai’s stages of urban development, the existence of metro infrastructure when high-rise development was undertaken, and the city’s land use policies. This case study sheds light on the relationship between high-density developments and metro systems in other large cities in China and other developing countries where rapid urban development coincides with the establishment of a comprehensive public transit system.
Agriculture is one of the most important sectors for global anthropogenic methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. While much attention has been paid to production-side agricultural non-CO2 greenhouse gas (ANGHG) emissions, less is known about the emissions from the consumption-based perspective. This paper aims to explore the characteristics of agricultural CH4 and N2O emissions of global major economies by using the latest emission data from the Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT) and the recently available global multi-regional input-output model from the World Input-Output Database (WIOD). The results show that in 2014, the 42 major economies together accounted for 60.7% and 65.0% of global total direct and embodied ANGHG emissions, respectively. The consumption-based ANGHG emissions in the US, Japan, and the EU were much higher than their production-based emissions, while the converse was true for Brazil, Australia, and India. The global-average embodied ANGHG emissions per capita was 0.7 t CO2-eq, but major developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Mexico were all below this average value. We find that the total transfer of embodied ANGHG emissions via international trade was 622.4 Mt CO2-eq, 11.9% of the global total. China was the largest exporter of embodied ANGHG emissions, while the US was the largest importer. Most developed economies were net importers of embodied emissions. Mexico-US, China-US, China-EU, China-Japan, China-Russia, Brazil-EU, India-EU and India-US formed the main bilateral trading pairs of embodied emission flows. Examining consumption-based inventories can be useful for understanding the impacts of final demand and international trade on agricultural GHG emissions and identifying appropriate mitigation potentials along global supply chains.
Emission inventories are critical to understanding the sources of air pollutants, but have high uncertainties in China due in part to insufficient on-site measurements. In this study, we developed a method of examining, screening and applying online data from the country's improving continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) to reevaluate a “bottom-up” emission inventory of China's coal-fired power sector. The benefits of China's current national emission standards and ultra-low emission policy for the sector were quantified assuming their full implementation. The derived national average emission factors of SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) were 1.00, 1.00 and 0.25 kg/t-coal respectively for 2015 based on CEMS data, smaller than those of previous studies that may not fully recognize improved emission controls in recent years. The annual emissions of SO2, NOx and PM from the sector were recalculated at 1321, 1430 and 334 Gg respectively, 75%, 63% and 76% smaller than our estimates based on a previous approach without the benefit of CEMS data. The results imply that online measurement with proper data screening can better track the recent progress of emission controls. The emission intensity (the ratio of emissions to economic output) of Northwest China was larger than that of other regions, attributed mainly to its less intensive economy and industry. Transmission of electricity to more-developed eastern provinces raised the energy consumption and emissions of less-developed regions. Judged by 95 percentiles of flue-gas concentrations measured by CEMS, most power plants met the current national emission standards in 2015 except for those in Northwest and Northeast China, while plants that met the ultra-low emission policy were much scarcer. National SO2, NOx and PM emissions would further decline by 68%, 55% and 81% respectively if the ultra-low emission policy can be strictly implemented, implying the great potential of the policy for emission abatement.
In this paper, we look at differences in travel behavior and location characteristics across income in Chengdu, China at two points of time, 2005 and 2016, using household travel surveys. Specifically, we compare changes over time for different income groups for Chengdu in 2005 and 2016. We find that walking or biking remains the most common mode for all income groups but higher-income households appear to have more choices depending on the proximity of their neighborhood to downtown. We also find that both average local and average regional access have worsened since 2005. Furthermore, it appears that there is less economic diversity within neighborhoods in 2016 when compared to 2005, with more locations appearing to have 40% or more of low-, middle-, or high-income households than in the past. Finally, we find that low-income households and older trip makers are more likely to walk or bike and that high-income households are the most likely to own cars and use motorized modes. Built environment characteristics like mixed land use appear to significantly reduce travel time in 2016 but do not result in higher non-motorized transport mode share. We contribute to existing literature by evaluating changes in the relationship of built environment and travel behavior during a period of rapid urbanization and economic growth in a Chinese city.
China pledges to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 or sooner under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C or less by the end of the century. By examining CO2 emissions from 50 Chinese cities over the period 2000–2016, we found a close relationship between per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) for individual cities, following the environmental Kuznets curve, despite diverse trajectories for CO2 emissions across the cities. Results show that carbon emissions peak for most cities at a per capita GDP (in 2011 purchasing power parity) of around US$21,000 (80% confidence interval: US$19,000 to 22,000). Applying a Monte Carlo approach to simulate the peak of per capita emissions using a Kuznets function based on China’s historical emissions, we project that emissions for China should peak at 13–16 GtCO2 yr−1 between 2021 and 2025, approximately 5–10 yr ahead of the current Paris target of 2030. We show that the challenges faced by individual types of Chinese cities in realizing low-carbon development differ significantly depending on economic structure, urban form and geographical location.
China is introducing a national carbon emission trading system (ETS), with details yet to be finalized. The ETS is expected to cover only the major emitters but it is often argued that a more comprehensive system will achieve the emission goals at lower cost. We first examine an ETS that covers both electricity and cement sectors and consider an ambitious cap starting in 2017 that will meet the official objective to reduce the carbon-GDP intensity by 60-65% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The two ETS-covered industries are compensated with an output-based subsidy to represent the intention to give free permits to the covered enterprises. We then consider a hybrid system where the non-ETS sectors pay a carbon tax and share in the CO2 reduction burden. Our simulations indicate that hybrid systems will achieve the same CO2 goals with lower permit prices and GDP losses. We also show how auctioning of the permits improves the efficiency of the ETS and the hybrid systems. Finally, we find that these CO2 control policies are progressive in that higher incomes households bear a bigger burden.
Based on econometric estimation using data from the Chinese Urban Household Survey, we develop a preferred forecast range of 85–143 percent growth in residential per capita electricity demand over 2009–2025. Our analysis suggests that per capita income growth drives a 43% increase, with the remainder due to an unexplained time trend. Roughly one-third of the income-driven demand comes from increases in the stock of specific major appliances, particularly AC units. The other two-thirds comes from non-specific sources of income-driven growth and is based on an estimated income elasticity that falls from 0.28 to 0.11 as income rises. While the stock of refrigerators is not projected to increase, we find that they contribute nearly 20 percent of household electricity demand. Alternative plausible time trend assumptions are responsible for the wide range of 85–143 percent. Meanwhile we estimate a price elasticity of demand of −0.7. These estimates point to carbon pricing and appliance efficiency policies that could substantially reduce demand.
Developing less auto-dependent urban forms and promoting low-carbon transportation (LCT) are challenges facing our cities. Previous literature has supported the association between neighborhood form and low-carbon travel behaviour. Several studies have attempted to measure neighborhood forms focusing on physical built-environment factors such as population and employment density and socio-economic conditions such as income and race. We find that these characteristics may not be sufficiently fine-grained to differentiate between neighborhoods in Chinese cities. This research assesses characteristics of neighborhood spatial configuration that may influence the choice of LCT modes in the context of dense Chinese cities. Urban-form data from 40 neighborhoods in Chengdu, China, along with a travel behaviour survey of households conducted in 2016, were used to generate several measures of land use diversity and accessibility for each neighborhood. We use principle component analysis (PCA) to group these variables into dimensions that could be used to classify the neighborhoods. We then estimate regression models of low-carbon mode choices such as walking, bicycling, and transit to better understand the significance of these built-environment differences at the neighbourhood level. We find that, first, members of households do choose to walk or bike or take transit to work provided there is relatively high population density and sufficient access to public transit and jobs. Second, land-use diversity alone was not found to be significant in affecting LCT mode choice. Third, the proliferation of gated communities was found to reduce overall spatial connectivity within neighborhoods and had a negative effect on choice of LCT.
While many studies have reported that drought events have substantial negative legacy effects on forest growth, it remains unclear whether wetness events conversely have positive growth legacy effects. Here, we report pervasive and substantial growth enhancement after extreme wetness by examining tree radial growth at 1929 forest sites, satellite-derived vegetation greenness, and land surface model simulations. Enhanced growth after extreme wetness lasts for 1 to 5 years and compensates for 93 ± 8% of the growth deficit after extreme drought across global water-limited regions. Remarkable wetness-enhanced growths are observed in dry forests and gymnosperms, whereas the enhanced growths after extreme wetness are much smaller in wet forests and angiosperms. Limited or no enhanced growths are simulated by the land surface models after extreme wetness. These findings provide new evidence for improving climate-vegetation models to include the legacy effects of both drought and wet climate extremes.
The continuous entry of new firms and exit of old ones might have substantial effects on productivity of energy supply. Since China is the world’s largest energy producer, productivity of energy supply in China is a significant issue, which affects sustainability. As a technical application, this paper investigates the productivity and dynamic changes of Chinese coal mining firms. We find that the total factor productivity (TFP) growth of coal supply in China is largely lagging behind the growth rate of coal production. The entry and exit of non-state-owned enterprise (non-SOE) partially provide explanation for the dynamic change of aggregate TFP. Specifically, non-state owned entrants induced by the coal price boom after 2003, which had negative effects on TFP of energy supply, while the exit of non-SOEs had positive effects. Furthermore, there is regional heterogeneity concerning the effects of entry and exit on energy supply productivity. More entrants induced by coal price boom are concentrated in non-main production region (non-MPR), while more exits are located in MPR due to the government’s enforcement. This provides explanation for the phenomena that productivity of energy supply in MPR gradually surpasses that in non-MPR. We also anticipate our paper to enhance understanding on the energy supply-side, which might further help us make informed decisions on energy planning and environmental policies.
Realizing the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C by the end of this century will most likely require deployment of carbon-negative technologies. It is particularly important that China, as the world’s top carbon emitter, avoids being locked into carbon-intensive, coal-fired power-generation technologies and undertakes a smooth transition from high- to negative-carbon electricity production. We focus here on deploying a combination of coal and biomass energy to produce electricity in China using an integrated gasification cycle system combined with carbon capture and storage (CBECCS). Such a system will also reduce air pollutant emissions, thus contributing to China’s near-term goal of improving air quality. We evaluate the bus-bar electricity-generation prices for CBECCS with mixing ratios of crop residues varying from 0 to 100%, as well as associated costs for carbon mitigation and cobenefits for air quality. We find that CBECCS systems employing a crop residue ratio of 35% could produce electricity with net-zero life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases, with a levelized cost of electricity of no more than 9.2 US cents per kilowatt hour. A carbon price of approximately $52.0 per ton would make CBECCS cost-competitive with pulverized coal power plants. Therefore, our results provide critical insights for designing a CBECCS strategy in China to harness near-term air-quality cobenefits while laying the foundation for achieving negative carbon emissions in the long run.
The rebound effect, or the response to energy efficiency improvement, has drawn considerable attention from economists and policymakers. However, the magnitude remains quite controversial because of the differences in the definitions and methods being used. Originating from the definition of direct rebound effect, we develop an improved approach incorporating energy efficiency. The main advantages of the proposed approach are twofold. First, it enables us to estimate the demand elasticity of useful energy service with respect to energy service price. The estimates are more consistent with the definition of rebound effect and are more effective. Second, it decomposes direct rebound effect into substitution and output channels, enabling us to further understand the microeconomic mechanisms. Applying this method, we assess the direct energy rebound effect in China’s industrial sectors. We find that the direct rebound effect for the industry is 37.0%, and the substitution and output channels contribute to 13.1% and 23.9%, respectively. Substantial variations in the magnitudes and mechanisms occur by sector. For heavy industry, most energy rebound is induced by output expansion because of its sizeable cost decrease from efficiency improvements. Unlike heavy industry, most energy rebound in light industry comes from substituting energy service for other inputs because firms in light industry are more flexible in adjusting production inputs. Our results provide evidences for the importance of energy efficiency measures, and highlight the necessity of differentiated measures according to the sectoral characteristics.
Haze days induced by aerosol pollution in North and East China have posed a persistent and growing problem over the past few decades. These events are particularly threatening to densely-populated cities such as Beijing. While the sources of this pollution are predominantly anthropogenic, natural climate variations may also play a role in allowing for atmospheric conditions conducive to formation of severe haze episodes over populated areas. Here, an investigation is conducted into the effects of changes in global dynamics and emissions on air quality in China’s polluted regions using 35 simulations developed from the Community Earth Systems Model Large Ensemble (CESM LENS) run over the period 1920-2100. It is shown that internal variability significantly modulates aerosol optical depth (AOD) over China; it takes roughly a decade for the forced response to balance the effects from internal variability even in China’s most polluted regions. Random forest regressions are used to accurately model (R2 > 0.9) wintertime AOD using just climate oscillations, the month of the year and emissions. How different phases of each oscillation affect aerosol loading are projected using these regressions. AOD responses are identified for each oscillation, with particularly strong responses from El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). As ENSO can be projected a few months in advance and improvements in linear inverse modelling (LIM) may yield a similar predictability for the PDO, results of this study offer opportunities to improve the predictability of China’s severe wintertime haze events, and to inform policy options that could mitigate subsequent health impacts.
Deploying high penetration of variable renewables represents a critical pathway for decarbonizing the power sector. Hydro power (including pumped-hydro), batteries, and fast responding thermal units are essential in providing system flexibility at elevated renewable penetration. How to quantify the merit of flexibility from these sources in accommodating variable renewables, and to evaluate the operational costs considering system flexibility constraints have been central challenges for future power system planning. This paper presents an improved linear formulation of the unit commitment model adopting unit grouping techniques to expedite evaluation of the curtailment of renewables and operational costs for large-scale power systems. All decision variables in this formulation are continuous, and all chronological constraints are formulated subsequently. Tested based on actual data from a regional power system in China, the computational speed of the model is more than 20,000 times faster than the rigorous unit commitment model, with less than 1% difference in results. Hourly simulation for an entire year takes less than 3 min. The results demonstrate strong potential to apply the proposed model to long term planning related issues, such as flexibility assessment, wind curtailment analysis, and operational cost evaluation, which could set a methodological foundation for evaluating the optimal combination of wind, solar and hydro investments.
The chemical mechanisms responsible for rapid sulfate production, an important driver of winter haze formation in northern China, remain unclear. Here, we propose a potentially important heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemical mechanism. Through analyzing field measurements with aerosol mass spectrometry, we show evidence for a possible significant existence in haze aerosols of organosulfur primarily as HMS, misidentified as sulfate in previous observations. We estimate that HMS can account for up to about one-third of the sulfate concentrations unexplained by current air quality models. Heterogeneous production of HMS by SO2 and formaldehyde is favored under northern China winter haze conditions due to high aerosol water content, moderately acidic pH values, high gaseous precursor levels, and low temperature. These analyses identify an unappreciated importance of formaldehyde in secondary aerosol formation and call for more research on sources and on the chemistry of formaldehyde in northern China winter.
The Harvard-China Project adopted an Open Access policy in September 2017. Journal articles that are already made open access by the publishers are available on our publications page as PDF attachments, while the final manuscripts of other articles published since our adoption of the policy are available in the Harvard University open-access repository, DASH, under the Harvard-China Project collection. There is usually a six-month delay after the article is published before its manuscript is uploaded to DASH.