China’s new national agenda sets four priorities for urban mobility
China’s leaders just took an important step forward for sustainable urban mobility.
The 2015 sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)—popularly known as the "two sessions"—concluded last month in Beijing. The annual meetings gather China’s top legislative body and top national advisory body to inform national, provincial, and city-level leaders about the current economic and political state of the country and chart an agenda for the next year.
This year, four key priorities emerged on sustainable urban mobility, with important takeaways for both national transport strategies and local mobility solutions.
1. Creating livable cities with sustainable mobility
"We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty," said Premier Li Keqiang in 2014.
Nearly one year later, a poll showed that pollution control and environmental protection were two of the biggest areas of public concern going into the two sessions. In the Report on the Work of the Government released at the end of the National People’s Congress, the central government reinforced its plans for a more sustainable urban future by emphasizing convenient, reliable public transport as a means of tackling persistent challenges like air pollution and traffic congestion.
Due to increased focus on transport-related emissions following the recent viral documentary Under the Dome, the report specifically addressed how renewable energies, vehicle emissions reductions, and fuel standards can improve air quality.
2. Integrating transport in the Beijing-Tinajin-Hebei metropolitan region
The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan region is one of the largest urban agglomerations in the world. The development of the region as a whole will help Beijing in particular to address rapid population growth and mounting concerns over environmental quality and air pollution. Both the central and local governments plan to invest in the area’s urban and regional transport networks, strengthening connectivity to the capital city in efforts to bolster economic activity.
As the Ministry of Transport stated during the two sessions, the first step of transport integration will primarily focus on infrastructure development, such as building national and provincial highways, railways, ports, and airports. The transport integration plan will be released this year.
3. Innovating with technology-enabled mobility solutions
App-based transport technologies like Uber are gaining traction in cities worldwide, but generating their fair share of controversy along the way. Similarly innovative technologies—like taxi apps—have also sparked heated discussion in China.
The Ministry of Transport has recognized the convenience these tools bring to citizens, and encourages innovation within an appropriate regulatory and oversight framework so that the entire transport sector benefits. As a part of this managed response, the national government will release a plan for reforming the taxi system later this year. These reforms will focus on loosening government regulation of the taxi industry overall, but ensuring that pricing is fair both for users and operators.
4. More public participation, fewer administrative orders
More than ever, Chinese officials are involving citizens in the policymaking process. During the two sessions, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun introduced new initiatives in the capital city to enhance public participation and feedback through regulations about how transport policies are made. At the same time, Mayor Wang pointed out that the city will take further steps to solve the urban challenges of traffic congestion and air pollution through more economic policy measures, building on the administrative orders currently in place. These initiatives include proper parking policy to help reduce mobility demand in central areas, ease traffic congestion, and encourage residents to use more sustainable transport options.
Next steps for advancing China’s sustainable mobility goals
The issues raised at the two sessions are important indicators of the government’s policy priorities, and are likely to shape public discussions over the coming year. By developing tools to measure and combat transport emissions, advancing research on congestion charging, and conducting analysis of multimodal transport integration, WRI China is helping Chinese cities achieve the goals laid out at the two sessions.
Since 2012, WRI China has supported national and local governments in formulating and implementing sustainable mobility and urban development solutions. Through EMBARQ—WRI’s sustainable mobility initiative—WRI China is collaborating with decision-makers in China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and testing policy recommendations for urban planning, land value capture, smarter car usage, and transport demand management (TDM) in Qingdao and Chengdu. Already, these policy changes are helping the two cities become more sustainable and livable while reducing carbon emissions. And in Beijing, WRI China is helping the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT) reduce emissions, curb congestion, and integrate public participation in the policy-making process.
These initiatives and more are advancing national goals for urban mobility and helping Chinese cities make sustainable transport a reality.