China broke ground on a 40,000-tree-filled Forest City earlier this summer – but apparently one isn’t enough. The country, infamous for their environmental pollution, plans to construct 285 eco-cities, according to Forbes. But what exactly an eco-city constitutes – and the standards to which it will be held – is still in question.
Individual buildings can be held up against LEED standards, or even China’s Three Star system. But Forbes pointed out there’s no such criteria for entire cities. The publication quoted Austin Williams, Jiaotong-Liverpool University professor and author of a book on eco-cities, who said, “There is no definition of an eco-city, which makes them incredibly easy to invent.”
The country has urbanized more rapidly than any other country in history. In the last 30 years, more people than America’s entire population have moved to urban areas of China. The country has prioritized development over the environment in many cases, with dangerous air quality found in 90 percent of cities. According to Forbes, as the public has become educated about the pollution, environmental conditions in the country could pose the largest destabilizing force to the Communist Party.
Will China’s eco-cities recycle, be powered by renewable energy, produce less carbon emissions, and be built with energy-efficient structures – a few hallmarks we might expect in an eco-city? Williams said, “In the West, eco-cities are supposed to save the world; in China they are simply meant to provide a decent quality of urban environment…China’s eco-cities are simply intended to be much-needed urban improvements and infrastructural development with an eco-prefix.”
80 percent of prefectural-level cities are estimated to have at least one eco-city in the works. One estimate suggests in the near future, more than 50 percent of new urban developments in China will be labeled green, smart, low-carbon, or eco. It remains to be seen whether these eco-cities will genuinely benefit China’s environment – and the people who live in them.
Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti