Also in the European Union, cities are the centers of economic activity and population, accounting for 67% of EU’s GDP and 68% of EU’s population. In contrast to China, the European Union is characterised by a polycentric urban development with 56% of its urban population – around 38% of the total European population – living in small and medium-sized cities and towns of between 5.000 and 100.000 inhabitants . Only 7% of the EU population live in cities of over 5 million inhabitants compared to 14.4% in China . Similar to China, European cities are confronted with challenges ranging from specific demographic changes (some of them are shrinking and aging whereas other are expanding), job creation, social progress to congestion, air pollution and energy consumption. Urban sprawl puts additional pressure on public services, natural resources and congestion. According to the European Commission, 70% of European Union’s GHG emissions come from its cities . Globalisation has led to a loss of jobs – especially in the manufacturing sector – and this has been amplified by the current economic crisis. Green growth of cities offers a key opportunity to create jobs and ensure prosperity in Europe.
In China, rapid urbanisation leaded to the development of clusters of mega-cities and urban sprawl, setting enormous challenges to regional planning in China. From 1949 to 2013, the number of cities increased from 132 to 654, and the urbanisation level rose from 7.3% to 52.3%. There are currently 85 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people. Forecasts show that urban centers will keep growing at a high rhythm, particularly the so-called ‘second-tier’ and ‘third-tier’ cities. This dynamic growth increases pressure on social services, water , energy, transportation and housing infrastructure. The enormous quantities of untreated waste-water and waste as well as air pollution as well as the ineffective use and management of water are serious constraints that hamper sustainable urban development. Resource efficient production and consumption have therefore to be tackled hand in hand with the massive dissemination of end-of-pipe technologies to contain environmental pressures arising from growth of cities, e.g., in the areas of air pollution and water and sanitation. Smart city concept is the best solution to solve these problems.
Realizing smart urbanization has been the key priority of the Chinese top decision makers. Premier Li Keqing has stressed in the 17th China-EU Summit in 2015 the huge cooperation potential between European and Chinese cities in this aspect. CERECO is dedicated to foster various kind of policy exchange, experience sharing, field visit and conferences, cooperation with private sectors in smart urbanization process.