South Korea Will Host World EcoMobility Festival

Located 30km from South Korea’s capital of Seoul, Suwon is one of the fast-growing Asian cities battling with mounting urban challenges associated with climate change, including road nightmares.

The road to a sustainable future requires sustainable transportation alternatives. Suwon, South Korea will become a showcase for case studies and best practices in September.
The road to a sustainable future requires sustainable transportation alternatives. Suwon, South Korea will become a showcase for case studies and best practices in September.

But the city is determined to bid farewell to bottle-neck traffics and congestion, as well as the energy and pollution problems associated with urban transportation. This September, Suwon will host the EcoMobility World Festival with ICLEI and UN-Habitat.

Held in Suwon, South Korea from 1 to 30 September 2013, the EcoMobility World Festival 2013 offers a peek into the ecomobile city of the future by transforming an urban neighborhood into a people-oriented environment.

By designating one of the most crowded neighborhoods Haenggung-dong as a car-free zone for an entire month, where the world’s most cutting edge sustainable vehicles will also be showcased, the city will demonstrate to cities worldwide that alternative – eco-friendly, healthy and resource-efficient – means of transportation and lifestyle are possible in the age where climate change and its impacts are becoming more visible and relevant to the urban population.

To transform the car-centered neighborhood into a more people-friendly one, works have already been done to regenerate the city old town. For example, more trees have been planted and footpaths were widened to create more space for pedestrians. During the Festival, these usually crowded streets will also see ecomobile vehicles running on designated lanes, while all kinds of cultural activities, concerts, street art, bike and film shows will take place in other parts of the Festival area.

Describing the Festival as a meaningful attempt to create an “alternative urban transportation system that does not rely on fossil fuel in an era of oil depletion”, Yeom Tae-Young, Mayor of Suwon City, is calling his fellow citizens to change their mindsets and help create a greener and more sustainable community by adopting an ecomobile lifestyle – but also to cities worldwide, where heavy traffics are happening daily and costing commuters a huge amount of time and financial costs, not to mention the environmental costs that we have already been paying for decades.

To learn more, please visit Find out how you can participate now!

Sustainable Cities In China Offer Lessons for Global Leaders

Take a tour of China’s fast-growing megacities and you’re likely to come away astonished. Those of us who joined Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s historic trade and investment delegation last week were struck by the sheer size and rapid scale of development in dozens of cities, from Beijing and Shanghai to Huangzhou and Guangzhou. But a closer look, past the infamous veil of air pollution, reveals a lesser-known reality with incredible potential: China’s vast efforts to build sustainable, low-carbon cities from the ground up and to massively retrofit existing ones.

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What Chinese Cities Want From US Cities and Investors

In every city I visited, Chinese local government leaders expressed their hunger for solutions on air quality, greenhouse gas reduction, and renewable energy. They have the swagger of Silicon Valley venture capitalists—willing to experiment and gamble on bold ideas, and to make mistakes and learn from them. In particular, they want to learn from US cities, who are far ahead on climate action, but they also want to share their own groundbreaking approaches to sustainability.

The take-home is the same for cleantech investors and city leaders in the United States: China’s burgeoning urban landscape represents an unprecedented opportunity for trade, information sharing, and the proliferation of clean energy and energy-efficiency investments.

Over the past 10 days, Gov. Brown’s trade mission has generated national headlines with new trade and investment partnerships, and agreements for California and Guangdong Province—both the economic powerhouses in their respective countries—to share tools and strategies to address climate change and accelerate low-carbon economic growth. California will also share the technologies and policy approaches it has used to slash the type of noxious air pollution that used to plague Los Angeles.

At the city level, Chinese officials are ready to partner with US cities and with my organization, ICLEI, to obtain the necessary technical resources to reduce carbon intensity and meet their long-term goals. Right now many Chinese cities lack the type of national protocols and step-by-step guidance that US cities and counties have relied on to measure their GHG emissions, set reduction targets, and develop climate action plans.

What Chinese Cities Can Share: Innovative at a Gigantic Scale

China’s environmental challenges remain enormous: awful air quality, reliance on coal, an unrelenting increase in energy consumption and growing greenhouse gas emissions due to economic expansion. Yet Chinese city leaders aren’t sitting on their hands. Nearly every major policy or technological approach to sustainability happening across U.S. cities and communities is also underway in China—but on a much larger scale that is hard to comprehend if you can’t see it firsthand.

By connecting with Chinese officials, US city leaders could learn much from the experimentation and breakneck pace of sustainable development in China. What were the lessons learned, the mistakes, the breakthroughs? A few examples of what we saw last week:

Electric Vehicles

China’s “Ten Cities Thousand Vehicles” program, launched in 10 cities in January 2009 and expanded to 25 in 2011, aims to put thousands of EVs on the road in these pilot cities. The program is a sort of competition with different approaches deployed by different cities, who continually refine their efforts.

In Hangzhou, we saw a flexible rental model where users could rent either an EV or separately, the car battery, which could be swapped at special stations. In Shanghai there is also a business innovation model focused on EV rentals; in Beijing, a government-led approach with tax incentives. The most successful of these and other models will be showcased in Chinese media and shared with other cities to adopt.

Hangzhou Future Tech City

In only five years, planners are building from scratch a city the size of San Francisco for 500,000 people, and incorporating the best practices in urban design from around the world. The buildings feature cutting-edge energy efficiency and sustainable design; green space and wetlands are preserved and protected throughout the city, and a city center boasts smooth transit and electric vehicles. A special business incubator zone has attracted more than 131 domestic and overseas high-tech firms, and similar economic zones are springing up across other Chinese cities.

City Cap-and-Trade

Five Chinese cities, as well as two provinces, will pilot cap-and-trade programs for large polluters. The first two cities this year will be Shanghai and Shenzhen. Reportedly, another 100 cities and regions are interested in carbon trading as well. To meet their reduction targets, cities and provinces are focused heavily on renewable energy expansion—a great opportunity for US cleantech businesses to support. Chinese cities have also connected with officials in Tokyo, which also has a cap-and-trade program. Collaboration with California is sure to be next.

As we watch China’s city expansion unfold, again, the scale is hard to grasp: Over the next 20 years, an estimated 350 million Chinese will resettle in urban areas, the greatest human migration in history. As China races to accommodate this change, there are invaluable lessons to be learned from their successes and failures. It is imperative that Chinese city leaders and their counterparts around the world connect to share what’s working or failing.

As Chinese cities move toward a more sustainable future, we need to see their opportunities as the United States’ opportunities. Last week during a meeting with Governor Brown’s delegation, Yau Qiang, the chair of Tsinghua University’s Laboratory of Low-Carbon Energy perhaps said it best: “The future cleantech economy is still a cake to make, not a cake to cut. Why not make it big enough for all to share?”

Article by Michael Schmitz, Executive Director of ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI USA). ICLEI is the world’s leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainability, with more than 1,000 local government members in 84 countries. In the United States, ICLEI USA is the recognized leader on climate action and clean energy. Learn more at


The Earth Hour City Challenge: Cities Leading The Way Towards Sustainable Future

On the eve of Earth Hour, taking place this Saturday 23 March, WWF this week announced the City of Vancouver in Canada as its Global Earth Hour City Challenge Capital 2013 at an award ceremony in Malmö, Sweden. The Earth Hour City Challenge is an initiative that takes Earth Hour beyond the symbolic gesture of switching off lights for one hour, encouraging concrete action on the ground to combat climate change.


The City Challenge is designed to identify and reward cities that are prepared to become leaders in the global transformation towards a climate-friendly, one planet economy. Working in collaboration with the leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, WWF worked across six countries (Canada, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden and USA), from which a total of 76 cities registered for the City Challenge.

Candidate status was granted to 66 cities that demonstrated their commitment to action on climate change by reporting their emissions and energy reduction targets, past performance, completed or ongoing actions to reduce emissions and energy use, and climate action plans. Altogether, these cities reported over 1,000 mitigation actions, of which a substantial number were aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy and moving away from fossil-fuel based activities.

A select international jury judged Vancouver as the city that had most strongly demonstrated that it was prepared to implement holistic, inspiring and credible plans for low-carbon development and for substantially increasing use of sustainable, efficient and renewable energy solutions within the next few decades.

The jury also chose five other national Earth Hour City Challenge capitals – with New Delhi in India, Forlì in Italy, Oslo in Norway, Uppsala in Sweden and San Francisco in the United States all winning their respective country awards. All of these cities demonstrated a considerable level of ambition and commitment along with impressive actions which provide an important and powerful source of inspiration to other cities and people around the world.

Overall, the jury’s choice of global and national capitals largely reflects the depth of city actions, many of which involved reaching out to citizens and other stakeholders to support low-carbon strategies. One of many strong examples of this from Vancouver is its pioneering Neighborhood Energy Strategy. The strategy targets areas of the city with the greatest potential to reduce carbon emissions. Through engagement with these communities, the city is developing Neighborhood Energy Systems which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in these neighborhoods by up to 70% by 2020.

Oslo’s involvement in FutureBuilt, a collaborative effort involving a number of central government agencies and various architecture and construction companies, is another case in point. The 10-year programme, running until 2020, is aiming to complete 50 pilot projects with the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions. FutureBuilt has a strong reputation for innovation, competence building and knowledge exchange.

San Francisco is also reaching out to local communities through its Business Council on Climate Change (BC3). The scheme involves the city partnering with local businesses to reduce emissions and help meet the city’s sustainability goals. BC3 members commit to taking specific actions to reduce their emissions while the municipality has helped them by facilitating the use of electric vehicles and promoting projects such as its green tenant toolkit which is designed to enhance landlord-tenant engagement on sustainability.

These examples and many others from the top 17 shortlisted cities can be found through the Earth Hour City Challenge’s People’s Choice campaign website. The website was designed to generate wider public interest and excitement about sustainability actions in cities by giving the public a chance to vote via social media for their favorite finalist city for the People’s Choice award. Many cities have attracted positive responses reflecting a wide public enthusiasm and encouragement for cities across the globe to take significant action to accelerate the global transition to a truly renewable future. For example, the ambitious measures taken by New Delhi to overhaul its mass transit system have received extremely positive online responses.

WWF is now looking to further expand the City Challenge for next year and will invite cities from an additional six countries – Brazil, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia and South Korea – to join the next round of the Earth Hour City Challenge, which will start already this April. A key theme for next year’s challenge will be how cities are investing in renewable energy and divesting from fossil fuels.

Globally, $350 trillion dollars is expected to be spent on urban infrastructure investment and use over the next three decades. These investments can either lock us into a fossil-fuel dependent future – or help drive a global transition towards a sustainable, climate safe future. The expansion of the City Challenge reflects an urgency to encourage cities to follow the great examples described above and become global solution hotspots for a climate friendly and sustainable future.

Overall, the Earth Hour City Challenge demonstrates that cities across the globe are at the forefront of efforts to meet the global climate challenge. Cites have strong potential to work with their citizens and other stakeholders to drive the transition to a more sustainable future. WWF believes that highlighting strong city actions can also place further pressure for determined action at national and global levels, which will be pivotal in deciding whether humanity can stave off catastrophic climate change and secure its long-term wellbeing.

Earth Hour City Challenge Jury

  • Gino van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI
  • Martha Delgado, General Director of the Secretariat of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate – the Mexico City Pact
  • Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
  • Dan Hoornweg, Professor and Jeff Boyce Research Chair, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • Simon Giles, Senior Principal Intelligent Cities, Accenture Global, Accenture
  • Pietro Laureano, architect and urban planner, UNESCO consultant
  • Conor Riffle, Head of CDP Cities
  • Amanda Eichel, Director of Initiatives and City Support, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group