Public outreach for low carbon, sustainable transport held in Beijing
Update: 9/30/14: This article has been updated to include information about where the Tongxin Doudou videos have been broadcasted since their launch. This article also previously stated that 22.2% of fine particulate matter in Beijing comes from vehicle emissions. That statistic has been updated to 31.1%, reflecting the most recent estimate from the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.
On the morning of September 10, 2014, Beijing’s Liuliqiao Subway Station was transformed as the venue for a public outreach event to promote low carbon, sustainable transport. Hosted by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT), and co-sponsored by Beijing Transport Energy and Environment Center (BTEC), World Resources Institute (WRI) and EMBARQ China, the event witnessed the launch of four new episodes of Tongxin Doudou cartoon videos. These videos feature Tongxin Doudou, a lively cartoon character in support of sustainable transport, and aim to promote green transport concepts to the public via short and simple stories. The video campaign also hopes to educate people about Beijing’s policy shift towards a sustainable transport development plan, and to increase the public support for such policy change. Participants of the event signed their names on the backdrop to show their support for low carbon transport and expressed their expectations for a more livable Beijing.
Editor's note: Read this article in Chinese.
Beijing is already home to 5.5 million cars, and vehicle emissions contribute 31.1% of the total level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the city, which poses significant health risks to the population. Private vehicles are the least environmental friendly transport option, yet 32.7% of Beijing’s residents use private cars to travel in town. These issues have made sustainable development strategies more and more urgent for policy makers. The Tongxin Doudou video campaign showcases Beijing transport authorities’ commitment to public communication and citizen engagement in its development planning process. In each episode, Tongxin Doudou experiences mobility challenges that typical Beijing commuters encounter every day, and explains the benefits of taking low carbon transport, including saving travel time, relieving congestion, increasing physical activity, and improving air quality. The four stories are titled “Your contribution to the transport,” “Less driving for Beijing’s blue sky,” “Take actions to protect the environment,” and “Public transport makes life more convenient.” The videos have been broadcasted on media terminals in all 17 metro lines and in all buses in Beijing, reaching over 10 million people each day. They have also been promoted on BMCT’s official weibo (social media platform), which has about 2.7 million active followers, generating very positive public feedback.
As explained by BMCT, September is the most congested month of a year, due to the start of the new school year, two national holidays, and the resulting tourist boom. Therefore, Beijing has also seized this opportunity to launch a low carbon transport public campaign named “The Month of Congestion Reduction,” which includes efforts to improve public transport services, increase the number of shuttle buses and taxis, provide more frequent metro services, and enhance public bicycle renting services. The Tongxin Douou video launch and the public outreach event on September 10th are part of the efforts to promote the concept of low carbon transport and to relieve September’s transport pressure. It is expected that all citizens will participate in the low carbon transport campaign to build a more sustainable and livable Beijing.
With the issuing of Beijing’s Clean Air Action Plan in 2013, BMCT and Beijing Municipality have committed to a decrease in vehicle fuel consumption from 2012 levels by 2017. The city is proactively taking a series of integrated measures to counter the negative externalities from the urban transport sector. These measures include expanding the subway network, increasing the length of dedicated bus lanes, introducing bike share, and tightening up car ownership restriction. EMBARQ China is also working together with BMCT on transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies and plans to help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
“Cities & transport is one of WRI’s critical working priorities. We have cooperated with BMCT on promoting low carbon transport and research on congestion improvement and emission reduction,” said Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of WRI. “We expect the Tongxin Doudou cartoon video that WRI and BMCT produced together will introduce low carbon transport concept to the public, so as to better enhance Beijing’s sustainable transport development.”
Private vehicles not only create challenges in terms of traffic congestion, they are also one of the culprits behind urban pollution in cities like Beijing. According to BTEC statistics, private vehicles consume 1.2 times more energy than taxis, 5 times as much as ground public transport like buses, and 12 times more than subway systems. Personal vehicles also emit 10 times as much hydrocarbon and 17 times as much carbon monoxide as ground public transport, contributing to air pollution and respiratory health concerns.
Following the Tongxin Doudou video launch, WRI and EMBARQ China, together with BTEC, hosted the Workshop on International Best Practice in Transport Emission Reduction, inviting transport authorities and experts from both home and abroad to discuss ways to ease Beijing’s congestion, and to share best practices of emission reduction. Haitao Zhang, Director of EMBARQ China, delivered the keynote speech on the team’s research findings comparing emissions reduction strategies from Stockholm, London, and Singapore under the “International Cities Best Practices for Congestion Mitigation and Emission Reduction” project. These research findings will shed light on the future sustainable transport planning in Beijing and meet current mobility needs for its over 21 million residents.