26 October 2016
Around the year 2000 Beijing’s urban and industrial sprawl tipped the city’s carbon sequestration balance from positive to negative. This tale of two cities—pre- and post‑2000 Beijing—is illustrated in work by IIASA researcher Brian Fath, along with Ursula Scharler, Linlin Xia, and Yan Zhang.
Between 1992 and 2008 a fifth of cultivated and more than a quarter of forested land in the Beijing basin was built upon. This carbon‑sink land lost out to the demands of industry, transport, and housing. The result is that now only 2.4% of the city’s carbon emissions are being offset within its boundaries.
“The expansion of transportation led to the expansion of the urban area,” says Linlin Xia referring to rapid development between 1995 and 2000. “This unbalanced the carbon metabolism because of limitations on land available for development.”
The discovery that green areas need protection and that carbon emissions require control came “late” say the researchers. However, they point to the possibility of recovery with Beijing now protecting key ecological zones. “It’s a hard and long‑term task,” says Xia, adding that it’s much better to have a good plan for sustainable city development.
The paper, says Fath, “provides an objective basis for adjusting Beijing’s land use to improve its carbon metabolism and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Text by Kerry Skyring
Last edited: 30 August 2017
Xia L, Fath BD , Scharler UM, & Zhang Y (2016). Spatial variation in the ecological relationships among the components of Beijing's carbon metabolic system. Science of the Total Environment 544: 103-113. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.110.
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