Opening Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann at Re:Think 2021: Innovative Pathways Towards Net Zero Cities

December 13, 2021

Ms. Beate Trankmann gives opening remarks at the Re:Think 2021: Innovative Pathways towards Net Zero Cities conference

余辉(yúhuī) 主 任(Director Liu),

张翼 主 任(Deputy Director-General of CICETE),

刘燕华 (Liú Yànhuá) 部 长(former Minister of Science and Technology),

各 位 专 家、女 士 们、先 生 们 ;  大家早上好!


(Welcome and thank you all, whether in Beijing, Chengdu or online, for joining us at the second annual Re: Think conference.)

This year’s focus - transforming cities and placing them on the path to net-zero carbon emissions - could not be more timely nor urgent.

Our earth faces a triple crisis: climate change, pollution and biodiversity’s destruction. Unless we take drastic, immediate action… here’s what awaits us, by 2050:

·      Rising seas would submerge dozens of cities globally, including much of Shanghai...[1]

·      Extreme heat would also threaten the world, including Northern China...[2]

·      Consequently, climate change could displace 1.2 billion people globally...[3]

·      Nearly 3.6 million people will be killed by air pollution every year, more than doubling from today… mainly, in China and India.[4]

·      One million species also face extinction within decades, due to human action, including quickening climate change[5].

Following COP26 in Glasgow, about 90%[6] of the world have now pledged net zero commitments including China. While these lower global temperature rise projections to 2.4 degrees, we still risk climate catastrophe.

Indeed, we are a long way from our only livable future: the 1.5 degree Paris target.

As UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, warned recently, “it’s time to go into emergency mode”[7].

As we confront this emergency, decarbonizing cities is critical. With 70% of emissions coming from cities[8], they will determine whether we realize a low-carbon future, and mend our relationship with the planet.

Hi-tech zones can support low-carbon urbanization, by accelerating green technologies and policies. With diverse industries, strong technological resources and pro-business policies, they act as experimental laboratories and hubs for technology and policy innovation.

Around the world, technology is being harnessed by cities for climate action. The Swedish city, Lund, for example, is building a low temperature district heating system that generates heat for homes from recycled fossil-free waste[9]. Closer to home, Shandong, Xiamen, Shenzhen and Hainan are exploring underwater data centers to cut energy use and conserve water used in cooling systems.[10]

Equally, the forward-looking spirit of Hi-Tech Zones offers an ideal environment for testing policy tools to attract green enterprises and incentivize decarbonization. Guangzhou, for example, announced new subsidies in May of up to 10 million RMB[11] for firms meeting energy conservation targets. Similarly, as much as 2 million RMB will go to firms in the circular economy and green industries.

Globally, China is also increasingly recognized for its green finance leadership – crucial in redirecting capital towards our planet. Building green financial systems in cities is another area where Hi-Tech Zones can advance China’s green transition.

Shenzhen has shown how to do this.  This year, it launched China’s first local green finance regulations, requiring financial institutions registered there to disclose environmental impact information on enterprises, projects or assets they invest in. Such measures strengthen the transparency needed for sustainable investing, towards net-zero.

Moving forward, UNDP is committed to supporting sustainable, inclusive cities.

Since its launch at the first Re: Think Conference, our SPARK lab in Chengdu has led research on the industrial carbon neutrality strategy of the city’s Hi-Tech Zone. It also started the new INSPIRO fellowship, connecting entrepreneurs in China and Europe to promote technologies generating positive social impact. While our recent Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report of Chinese Cities helps urban planners identify development priorities and align overall city planning with the SDGs – to end poverty and protect the planet - along with China’s 2030 and 2060 climate targets.

Sharing experiences and forging partnerships can help cities meet ambitious net-zero goals. So I’m delighted that today brings together policymakers, government experts, academics and the private sector, to exchange ideas and discuss the way forward together. I hope we can break new ground and advance sustainable urban development that includes everyone.

Finally, thank you to our co-hosts and partners, the Chengdu Hi Tech District Government and China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), for helping to organize this conference.

Let’s rethink cities’ development together and forge a zero-carbon future for all.

Thank you! 谢谢






[6] COP26 keeps 1.5C alive and finalises Paris Agreement - UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (

[7] Full text of UN Secretary General's Cop26 statement (

[8] Empowering “Smart Cities” toward net zero emissions - News - IEA