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译:Building China’s future?

来源: 时间:2011-2-22 10:58:00 点击:

Following Singapore’s example, Britain is trying to secure a role in China’s eco-cities market. But what does that mean for the green agenda? Olivia Boyd spoke to one of the figures behind the campaign.


China’s vice premier, Li Keqiang, spent much of his nine-day European tour in January buying wine and olive oil in Spain and signing multibillion-dollar agreements with Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz in Germany. But it was a visit to a sustainable-housing development in Britain’s unglamorous town of Watford that rounded of the trip of the man tipped to be China’s next prime minister.

This high-level show of interest in the United Kingdom’s green-building sector will have added to the delight of British politicians, already quivering with excitement about a new agreement that will see the country take a role in developing China’s “low-carbon pilots”, schemes launched last August to accelerate carbon-emission cuts in eight cities. Announcing the deal, Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary said: “Making green growth a reality for both countries will be crucial for prosperity, the environment and for our energy security.”

He has more to look forward to: in April, Qiu Baoxing, China’s vice-minister for housing and urban-rural development – and the man who once declared that "the world is at war with energy, and China is our battlefront" – is expected in London for discussions with a body set up to get British construction firms involved in China’s drive to build a wave of green cities. The two sides (the Chinese party is the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, or MOHURD) signed a memorandum of understanding last year.

Alan Kell, an expert in “smart” building technologies with experience overseeing the construction of sustainable demonstration pavilions in Hong Kong, Beijing and Kunming, is co-chair of the body due to host Qiu, the UK-China Eco-Cities & Green Building Working Group. In an interview with chinadialogue, he argued that Britain’s big international players can help boost the credibility of China’s green construction drive.

“A lot of the activity in China is frankly smoke and mirrors,” said Kell. “They come up with high concepts but, having got something approved as ‘low-carbon’ or ‘eco-city’, what gets delivered often has little or no reflection of those aspirations – it’s bog-standard commercial delivery. So we’ve got to get involved in the specification and standards and delivery process to help the Chinese help themselves.”

There is a heavy dose of commercial self-interest here too. The group – whose membership at last count comprised 25 of the UK’s leading construction, design and property firms plus three universities – is the latest incarnation of a government and business-backed initiative to promote British green-construction expertise in China. This time, its sights are on the mega schemes: the country’s so-called “eco-cities”, typically large-scale satellite developments near existing urban centres, intended to function both as sustainable communities and showcases for cutting-edge design. The Economist has reported that, by 2009, there were around 40 such schemes on the go, though the lack of a clear “eco-city” definition makes it hard to find a reliable figure.

It’s easy to see the market’s appeal. According to a 2009 forecast from the McKinsey Global Institute, China will have 350 million extra urban residents by 2025, a date by which the country should have already passed its target of a 40% to 45% cut in emissions intensity. And Britain is not the only country piling in. Singapore has even managed to get its role in a development in northern China into the scheme’s name: the “Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city”, a four billion yuan (US$607 million) urban project planned around a core of conserved wetlands. But do the ambitions of politicians and businesses stuck in stagnant domestic markets sit comfortably with a credible green agenda? In other words, will China’s environment actually benefit from the international scramble for work?

Kell argued that hard-nosed commercialism is actually a powerful way of delivering tangible benefits on the ground, not least because the pressure of the bottom line means companies push for implementation over discussion and large-scale delivery over demonstration: “These are commercial companies we’re dealing with. They’re prepared to invest a certain amount in capacity building but, come the crunch, their interest is in commercial projects, not demonstration. And my fundamental premise is: unless we’re connecting with commercial delivery, all these discussions are futile.”

Recent history suggests that sustainable aspirations of international firms in China do not always produce sustainable results, however. Dongtan, the prototype eco-city designed by British engineering giant Arup for an area of delicate wetlands near Shanghai, is the most potent example. Plans for the zero-emissions transport, energy self-sufficient scheme, intended to be one third of the size of Manhattan by 2050, won plaudits internationally (in spite of its location on a fragile ecosystem). But it never got off the ground.

Huangbaiyu, the “model sustainable village” designed by US architect William McDonough, was also a dispiriting flop. Forty-two houses were built on the site in Liaoning province, north-east China, but fell so far short of the promised standards that an American anthropologist sponsored to monitor the village’s transformation, Shannon May, was moved to speak out against it: “I could no longer continue reading the glowing stories of the successful development of a model eco-town in Huangbaiyu without becoming angry or depressed,” she wrote on her blog.

Does it have to be like this? Not according to Kell. He said the main lesson from the Dongtan fiasco is that projects have to be selected carefully. “Yes, there were local financial and political problems, but the message we were given from Beijing was that they didn’t support the Dongtan project. It didn’t figure in the national programme. And the message we take away from that is this: we have to work at the national level and at the local level to be successful. So we are working at the national level, with MOHURD, to understand and influence their eco-city standards, and we’re working at regional and city level to actually identify real projects.”

He added that, for real sustainability, there has to be an emphasis on the “life-cycle” of projects – making sure a scheme is workable and green from beginning to end; from financing arrangements through to post-construction management: “One statement I picked up from the ministry [MOHURD] is that there’s an increasing need in China to create a facilities management industry, because they’re throwing up all of these new buildings and they’re not performing.”

He gave an example: “I spoke a couple of years ago at a brand new, state-of-the-art conference centre in China. It looked breathtaking but the temperature in the room was unbearable and halfway through, a man came in with a cardboard box and proceeded to smash a hole in the wall and insert a stand-alone air-conditioning unit, just behind the podium. This incident in some ways illustrated the challenge – you can throw these buildings up, but you need to run them properly too.”

Whether or not Kell’s team will get to make this point at a practical level is as yet unclear. The group is doing well on memoranda of understanding. But when it comes to actual projects on the ground, there is less progress, though Kell is hopeful that a trade mission to China in March will yield a deal on specific projects in Hunan’s Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan City cluster (CZT), which as well as promoting green industry aims to be a national exemplar in protecting intellectual property rights.

And whether or not such projects, in the long-term, will help China meet its sustainability challenges is another question altogether. Sceptical voices remain. David Tyfield, sociologist at Lancaster University and expert in low-carbon innovation in China, while broadly supportive of the eco-city concept, is concerned that political sensitivities surrounding such high-profile schemes will make it difficult to build “more than showcases”. He pointed to economic challenges too: “The bottom line is that, while there is a lot of demand for clean living spaces in China, there’s not much demand for paying a premium to live in a low-carbon city. And, if there’s not that demand, is it possible to have an eco-city in China that’s not just a luxury suburb?”

Kell’s belief is that, with the right leadership, standards and international help, the “eco” in China’s eco-city will be meaningful. Here’s hoping.

(译文如有出入请联系本会,来源于chinadialogue)

译   文:

构筑中国生态城市的未来

继新加坡之后,英国也努力在中国生态城市市场争取一席之地,这对绿色议程意义何在?奥莉维亚•博伊德采访了这一行动的幕后推手之一。


中国副总理李克强1月份对欧洲进行了为期九天的访问。期间,他从西班牙采购了葡萄酒和橄榄油,在德国与大众和梅塞德斯—奔驰签订了数十亿美元的合同。但这位未来中国总理欧洲之行中真正引人瞩目的活动却是他对英国毫不起眼的小镇——沃特福德的可持续住宅开发的参观

李克强对英国绿色建筑部门所表现出来的浓厚兴趣将让英国政治家们更加兴奋,他们已经在为中英间的一个新协议而欢欣鼓舞,这个协议将让英国在中国去年8月提出的在八个城市加速降低碳排放的“低碳试点”开发中获得一席之地。英国能源和气候变化大臣休恩在宣布这一协议时说:“让中英两国实现绿色增长,对繁荣、环境和我们的能源安全都是至关重要的。”

休恩还提到了进一步的安排:今年4月,中国住房和城乡建设部副部长仇保兴(他曾经说过 “世界正面临一场关于能源的战争,中国将处于第一线。”)将访问伦敦,与某个团体商谈英国建筑企业参与中国绿色城市建设的事宜。双方(中国方面就是住房和城乡建设部,简称MOHURD)在去年签订了一个谅解备忘录。

将要接待仇保兴的这个团体就是中英生态城市及绿色建筑工作组,其副组长阿兰·凯尔接受了中外对话的采访。凯尔是一位“智能”建筑技术专家,他曾经监督了香港、北京和昆明的可持续展示场馆的建设。在采访中,他说英国的各大国际行为体将帮助提高中国绿色建设浪潮的可靠性。

 “坦白地说,中国的很多活动都是徒有其表,”凯尔说,“它们在宣传上都非常高调,都有一些被认为是‘低碳’或者‘生态城市’的东西,但这些热情却很少能转化成实际,顶多是一种普通的商业行为。因此,我们必须参与到规格和标准中去,并且加入到落实过程中,帮助中国人实现自力更生。”

这里的商业性也很强。该小组的成员至少包括了25家英国的顶尖建筑、设计和房地产公司,再加上三所大学,它是政府和产业联合推动英国绿色建设专家力量在中国发挥作用的最新典型。这一次,它的主要着眼点是那些宏大的“生态城市”计划上,最典型的一种就是现有城市中心附近的大型卫星城,既作为可持续社区也作为尖端设计的橱窗。据《经济学家》杂志报道,截至2009年,中国大约有40个左右左右类似的在建项目,由于缺乏一个清晰的“生态城市”概念,我们很难得到一个可靠的数字。

市场的诉求显而易见。根据麦肯锡全球研究所2009年的预测,到2025年中国将有3.5亿新城市居民,而这时中国应该已经实现了碳强度降低40%-45%的目标。英国并不是唯一努力挤入中国市场的国家,新加坡更加领先一步,已经成功地把自己写入了华北的一个项目名称:中国—新加坡天津生态城,这个项目投资高达40亿元(6.07亿美元),将以一块受保护的湿地为核心,进行城市建设。政治家和产业界的雄心被停滞的国内市场所消磨,面对一个可靠的绿色议程他们能坐得住吗?换句话说,对生态城市市场的国际争夺能让中国环境真正受益吗?

凯尔认为实打实的商业化的确是一个带来切实利益的有力途径,尤其是因为底线的压力意味着企业会推动落实而不仅是讨论,推动大规模交割而不仅是示范:“这些就是我们正在打交道的商业企业。它们准备好一笔资金投入用于能力建设,但一到紧要关头, 它们的兴趣是商业项目,而非示范。我的基本假设就是:我们必须与商业交割建立联系,否则所有的讨论都是徒劳。”

但是,近来的情况表明,国际企业在中国的可持续热情并不总是能够产生可持续的成果。中国生态城市的样板——东滩是一个最有力的例子。它位于上海附近的一个脆弱的湿地区域,由英国的工程巨头Arup公司设计。其规划中包含了零排放的交通、能源自给系统,力图在2050年达到曼哈顿三分之一的面积,这个项目赢得了国际性的赞扬(尽管其选址是在脆弱的湿地),但它却从未真正启动。

黄柏峪是另一个令人沮丧的失败。这个位于辽宁本溪的“生态示范村”由美国建筑师威廉·麦克唐纳设计,总共有42座房子。项目早在2008年就完成了,但是远未达到承诺的标准,一位一直关注该村变化的美国人类学家梅嬉蝶转而公开对它进行批判,她在博客里写道:“对于那些所谓黄柏峪的模范生态村成功发展的光辉经验,我实在再也读不下去了,心里只有愤怒和失望。”

这种结果是必然的吗?凯尔认为并非如此。他说东滩失败的主要教训就是必须谨慎选择项目。“没错,(东滩)确实存在地方财政和政治上的问题,单我们从北京得到的信息是他们并不支持东滩项目,它并没有被列入国家规划。对此我们可以进行这样的解读:如果要获得成功,我们必须在国家层面和地方层面同时做工作。因此我们现在一方面在国家层面和住房和城乡建设部合作展开工作,以便理解和影响他们的生态城市标准;一方面在省市层面开展工作,以便确认真正可做的项目。”

他补充说,为了实现真正的可持续性,必须强调项目的“生命周期”,确保计划的切实可行,从最初的融资到完工后的管理,能够从头绿色到尾。他说:“我从住建部得到的最新说法就是中国越来越需要创立一个设施管理产业,因为他们虽然在不断建起新的(生态)建筑,但它们完全没有发挥作用。”

凯尔举了一个例子:“几年前我到中国一座崭新的最先进的会议中心开会,这里看起来实在金碧辉煌,但室内温度却让人无法忍受,就在我发言的中间,竟然有一个男人搬着个大纸箱走了进来,接着开始在墙上凿洞,往里面塞了个窗式空调,而且就在讲台的后面。这个小插曲从某种程度上充分体现了挑战的所在——你盖起了那些建筑,也必须让它正确地运转。”

凯尔的团队是否能够在实践层面上做到这一点还是个未知数。他们的谅解备忘录写得非常好,但到了实际项目中,进展却非常有限。但是凯尔仍然寄望于3月份一个贸易代表团来华时能够在湖南的长沙-株洲-湘潭城市群 (CZT)的项目上达成一个协议,这个城市群在推动绿色产业的同时,还将努力 成为知识产权保护的国家样板。

至于这些项目在长远上是否会帮助中国应对其可持续性挑战则完全是另一个问题。质疑的声音仍然存在。大卫·泰菲尔德是兰开斯特大学的社会学家,也是一位中国低碳创新的专家,尽管他非常支持生态城市的概念,但也担心这些备受瞩目的项目所面临的政治敏感问题将让其“不过是个模型而已”。他也指出了经济上的挑战:“底线就是,尽管中国对清洁居住空间的要求很大,但却没有多少人愿意付出额外高价住在一个生态城市里。如果没有这样的需求,中国的生态城市又怎么可能不沦为一个单纯的奢华富人区?”

凯尔认为,只要有了正确的领导、标准和国际援助,中国生态城市的“生态”就会落到实处。这也是人们所期望的。

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