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China partnership for ‘low carbon cities’

Funding partnerships for 'low carbon cities' in UK and China

Published on: 23 October 2015

A collaboration with China will examine how electric or hybrid cars can halt the environmental and social problems created by the rapid increase in vehicle use in East Asia.

The project was announced as Chinese President, Xi Jinping visited the UK this week.

The experts will learn from the transport systems in the UK which face similar but smaller-scale issues. And with an £800,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with matched equivalent resources from the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) they hope to understand the difference in how changes in car use and the adoption of low carbon vehicles could have on the climate as well as to improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University who is leading the collaboration with Imperial College London, and Southeast University, China said: “Lessons learned from the changes we are making to infrastructure and encouragements to adopt low carbon vehicles in cities like Newcastle where electric vehicle charging points have been put in, could help combat the problems of poor air quality and carbon emissions in huge conurbations.

“We have all seen the images of smog-covered cities and the evident health risks that brings need to be combatted but we need to recognise that with growing wealth, there is a growing desire to own a car so new strategies to deal with that are needed.  These problems are not unique to China and we have similar challenges in decarbonising transport and finding means to improve air quality in cities – as a partnership we can learn from best practice and local innovations, from each other.”

Low carbon transport

One of the areas they will be examining is whether the move from individuals driving to do a food shop to supermarkets providing deliveries could be encouraged in environmentally sustainable ways and whether cities are being designed to encourage electric car use with enough charging points, strategically located, to make the transition to low carbon transport feasible and workable on a large scale.

This project is one of four between UK and Chinese universities to work towards achieving low carbon cities in the UK and China receiving over £3 million from EPSRC with matched equivalent resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

By using comparative research to examine social, political and technical challenges, this will help the UK and China to successfully transition towards future low carbon cities. This programme and joint funding process has been facilitated by the RCUK China office.

Professor Philip Nelson FREng, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 production and ensure energy security and affordability. This is the first of three low carbon innovation projects between EPSRC and NSFC. The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies.”

Professor Che Chengwei, Deputy Director General, Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, NSFC commented: “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy. This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas. It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

The four projects funded are:
Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites
(Newcastle University, Imperial College London, and Southeast University)

City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing (University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology)

The ‘Total Performance’ of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK (University College London  and Tsinghua University)

Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities (University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University)

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014. Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, this programme builds on five years of successful collaborative research funded jointly by EPSRC and NSFC in energy research. Low Carbon Innovation will also support research to develop new low carbon manufacturing processes and technologies, as well as offshore renewables.


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