Would you like to live in a city where you can see the snow-capped mountains from your balcony and walk in the parks as soon as you leave the house?

Chengdu, a metropolis with a population of over 21 million in Sichuan Province Southwest China, is building such a place for its residents.

Chengdu’s various biodiversity-related initiatives aim to enhance the living experience of its people by creating a natural environment that is more conducive to their needs. The city provides a model for others seeking innovative ways to create a harmonious balance between urbanization and nature.

Known as the “home of giant pandas” and a gourmet capital, Chengdu is following a sustainable development philosophy. In 2018, President Xi Jinping emphasized, during his visit to the Tianfu New Area in Chengdu, the need to plan and build the area well, by highlighting the characteristics of the park city and taking ecological values into account. In December 2021, the National Standardization Administration Committee approved the comprehensive pilot of the park city standardization in Tianfu New Area, making it the first and only national park city standardization pilot area.

The concept of a “park city” aims to enhance the living experience of people by creating a natural environment that is more conducive to their needs. This approach involves improving all aspects of the environment instead of just adding more parks and gardens to the city. The “park city” concept aligns well with ICLEI’s nature-based and people-centered development pathway, which strives to establish greener, fairer, more livable, and inclusive urban communities.

The city has implemented the “park city” concept through various measures that focus on urban planning, environmental protection, and industrial development. As of 2023, Chengdu has increased its greenery and landscape by 18.33 square kilometers, and now has a total of 1,556 parks of different types.

One of the major measures in Chengdu has been the construction of the Longquan Mountain Forest Park in its central area. This park serves as the “green heart” of the city, covering a total area of 1,275 square kilometers. In 2023, the park expanded by 38.67 square kilometers (58,000 mu), adding more greenery and enhancing the overall scenery. Another significant project is the Giant Panda National Park, which acts as the “green lung” of the city and is expected to cover 1,459 square kilometers. In 2023, Chengdu restored 41.33 square kilometers (62,000 mu) of panda habitat, thus contributing to the conservation of this endangered species.

Chengdu is currently developing the world’s longest planned urban greenway system, which will be known as the Tianfu Greenway. The greenway will serve as the “green veins” of the city and will cover a total planned length of 16,900 kilometres. It will connect various ecological areas such as parks, small amusement areas, and scattered green spaces, effectively transforming Chengdu into a giant park. As of the end of 2023, the city had already built over 7,000 kilometers of the Tianfu Greenway.

“Traditional urban planning often involves building outwards in a circular fashion along a central roadway. However, we are adopting a different approach to our urban planning strategy. Our focus is on developing the areas along the river and green spaces while preserving more than 80% of the original landforms. Rivers, lakes, and green spaces are no longer just urban backyards but have become an integral part of residents’ lives and ecological lines that drive the city’s industrial development,” said Lin Qiang, deputy director of the Administrative Committee of Tianfu New Area.

The International Horticultural Exhibition, themed “Park City, Beautiful Habitat”, will take place in Chengdu from 26 April to 28 October 2024. This exhibition will feature 113 exhibition parks spread across seven major exhibition areas within the main venue, along with six core pavilions. In addition to these exhibitions, over 2,000 activities will be held during the 186-day event, including eight international professional competitions that will showcase the latest varieties, technologies, and achievements in the field of horticulture.

ICLEI collaboration with Chengdu

Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province in Southwest China, has emerged as a frontrunner in sustainable urban development. Joining the ICLEI network in 2020, Chengdu aims to establish itself at the forefront of sustainability in China and on the global stage.

ICLEI has actively supported Chengdu in advocating its initiatives internationally, positioning the city as a model for others seeking a harmonious balance between urbanization and nature. Under the Sino-German Urbanization Partnership Project, ICLEI and Chengdu co-developed a case study that illustrates how Chengdu’s Park City Initiative revitalized and strengthened its economy and society through urban renewal, while integrating nature into the creation of a green, sustainable and livable city.

ICLEI and Chengdu have collaborated extensively in the fields of urban biodiversity and nature-based solutions (NbS). At the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments & Cities: Taking Action for Biodiversity during UN CBD COP15, Chengdu joined the CitiesWithNature partnership initiative, led by ICLEI, aiming to share its best practices in biodiversity conservation globally. Chengdu’s achievements in urban biodiversity earned the title of “Biodiversity Charming City” at “China Day”, which ICLEI organized to highlight China’s local efforts in biodiversity conservation, at the first-ever Pavilion for Subnational Governments and Cities at COP15.

Moreover, Chengdu is an observer city in the INTERACT-Bio project, which integrates biodiversity and NbS into urban development planning to create a pathway toward carbon neutrality. As one of three pilot cities of the GEF-7 UrbanShift Project in China, Chengdu incorporates biodiversity conservation into its urban planning strategies.

Chengdu’s actions in creating a “park city” with green veins and a network of green spaces and ecological areas are significant, not only for the city and its citizens, but also nationally and globally. They represent a clear contribution to Target 12 of The Biodiversity Plan for Life on Earth, which focuses on enhancing green spaces and urban planning for human well-being and biodiversity. These actions also contribute to several other targets, including the 30×30 targets and Target 11 on restoring, maintaining and enhancing nature’s contributions to people; as well as enhancing ecological corridors that protect the habitats of wildlife and migratory species.

Cities – critical contributors to action on The Biodiversity Plan (4)

In collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), ICLEI provided resilient cities training to Chengdu, focusing on building climate resilience. In November 2023, Chengdu became one of the first pilot cities in China for the “Making Cities Resilient 2030” initiative. The city is committed to enhancing its resilience through strategies like establishing a fresh air system, promoting ecosystem construction, and implementing the Tianfu Project. Guided by the Park City Initiative, Chengdu also promotes citizen participation in climate action, encouraging the public and businesses to adopt low-carbon lifestyles and engage in carbon sink projects.

References: 2024 Chengdu Municipal Government Work Report, 7 February 2024, https://www.sohu.com/a/756960059_670423

Copyright © cbc.iclei.org 2017 | All rights reserved