Chinese and German mayors discuss the social design aspect of green transformation in cities

Participants of the Sino-German Mayors Summit in Essen, Germany; Photo: Yunqing Bi/GIZ

Participants of the Sino-German Mayors Summit in Essen, Germany; Photo: Yunqing Bi/GIZ

17 representatives of the municipal administration and businesses of the city of Tianjin, which is under the direct control of the Chinese government, visited the Ruhr region and Munich for two weeks in July, as part of the 2019 German-Sino Mayors’ Programme. The topic was the “Transformative City” with the particular focus on the issue of sustainable and socially-balanced structural change.

The German-Sino Mayors’ Programme is organised by the German-Sino Urbanisation Partnership together with the Chinese Alliance of Mayors. The Programme has contributed to the sharing of information on sustainable and integrated urban development between the two countries for the past 37 years, and was integrated into the German-Sino Urbanisation Partnership in 2016.

The German-Sino Mayor’s Forum took place again this year, hosted by Essen and opened by the city’s Lord Mayor Kufen. The main discussion between the German and Chinese municipal representatives involved the issue of how the transformation to a post-industrial city can be used to achieve more sustainability and how it can take place in a socially-acceptable framework. The transformation of the city of Essen from a centre of the coal and steel industries to the Green Capital of Europe in 2017 was described by the Chinese participants as exemplary. The Chinese city of Tianjin presented its own efforts to restore functioning river systems. Both sides examined the challenges and successes of Essen’s River Emscher renaturation, such as sewage treatment, the removal of polluted soil and the reintroduction of flora and fauna.

Visit of the logport harbour in Duisburg, Germany, at the point of the former steel mill Rheinhausen; Photo: Daniel Krahl/GIZ

After their stay in the Ruhr region, the delegation travelled to Munich, where the building authority of the Bavarian capital presented the renaturation of the Isar river as a successful example of the process. The focus of the on-site inspections, however, was on new uses of reclassified areas. In this respect, the decontamination of industrial sites, for example, was a topic that is central to the reutilisation of industrial sites, especially for Chinese cities. In this context, the delegates visited the former Riem airport site, the Aubing district and the redesigned site of the Pfanni company located near the Ostbahnhof.

Another important topic from an urban point of view was the transition from carbon-based energy supply to 100% renewable energy in cities. The Chinese delegation had intensive discussions with Bernd Tischler, the Lord Mayor of Bottrop and with the Innovation City company, which is driving urban transformation in Bottrop to learn more about this process. To this end, the delegates visited exemplary residential buildings and industrial plants.

Welcome of the delegation by the Mayor of Bottrop, Mr. Tischler; Photo: Yunqing Bi/GIZ

The next German-Sino Mayors’ Programme will probably take place in the first half of 2020 in Southern Germany. It will be the prelude to the German-Sino Urbanisation Forum on 30 October 2020 in China.