How Shenzhen became China’s most sustainable city
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How Shenzhen became China’s most sustainable city

LIKE most cities in China, Shenzhen has been battling air pollution, one of the biggest environmental issues in the country.

Shenzhen is a modern metropolis with a booming industrial zone that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland. For many years home to toxic smoke and dangerous levels of air pollutants, the city of almost 13 million has since succeeded in turning itself around.

In 2002, Shenzhen received a top award by the United Nations for being one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities, an accolade that both shocked and impressed its neighbours.

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In less than a decade, the city reduced its air pollution levels by around 50 percent, according to its authorities. Global consultancy McKinsey & Company in 2016 named Shenzhen the most sustainable city in all of China.

Much has been done to clean up and transform Shenzhen into an environmentally friendly poster child for the country. For starters, the government has been aggressive in cutting roadside air pollution and planting trees along the streets.

Shenzhen also made global headlines for being the first major city in the world to roll out an all-electric public bus fleet –  all 16,000 of them. To put it into perspective, the city has more all-electric buses than the combined number operating in New York City, LA, Toronto, New Jersey, and Chicago.

Unlike the diesel-guzzling buses, electric buses are not only better for the environment but also quieter. They’re cheaper to operate and maintain too.

And for every 1,000 battery-powered buses in operation, the country cuts down on 500 barrels of diesel fuel, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It was this all-electric fleet that helped the city meet its air quality goals in both 2016 and 2017.


(File) A woman stands with an umbrella to shield from the sun in Shenzhen, China. Source: Bob Rye/Unsplash

That’s not all. It also has an electric taxi fleet that runs its streets.

Currently, about 62.5 percent of all Shenzhen’s taxis are electric and the city aims to turn the fleet all-electric. The city plans to electrify all its taxis by 2020.

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China, being quick to embrace new technology and practice forward-thinking as well as its declaration of war against pollution, has allowed for positive changes in Shenzhen.

Between 2013 and 2016, levels of toxic PM 25 dropped by over 30 percent.

Last year, the Shenzhen municipal government offered CNY3.3 billion (US$514.4 million) in subsidies for e-buses and the construction of charging facilities. The city also encouraged taxi operators and private investors to invest in charging poles and stations for e-taxis.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.