Gengyuan Liu, PhD, Associate Professor. Director of Urban Ecological Research Institute. His research interests are focused on urban ecological planning and management, Emergy analysis, low-carbon economy, energy-water-food nexus. He also served as the Center Director of Advances in Cleaner Production Network, and Secretary-in-Chief for China Chapter of International Society for Advanced Emergy Research.
Professor, what is the more specific role of Beijing Normal University in the project and what are the expected results?
Beijing Normal University is the co-undertaking institute of this joint project.
The main goals of this research project are (i) to explore the conditions for the gradual transition of the urban systems of interest and their metropolitan areas from a state of “business-as-usual” waste and resource management to a sustainable state of circular technology and economy, (ii) to design a suitable roadmap, to implement case studies and to develop suitable monitoring and evaluation tools. Such result, if achieved, would serve as an example to many European, Chinese and worldwide urban systems. The result will be pursued by also implementing an active collaboration with local stakeholders, in order to enhance participatory decision making processes and prevent acceptance conflicts. Each stakeholder within the urban system (individual, small or medium enterprise, municipal agencies) has potential to become a valuable actor of the network, to develop technology and innovation, to help generate added value products and to contribute to new jobs and income patterns.
How are these results integrated into urban development and transformation programmes in China? Which are the areas of the Country that have already included or experienced this type of approach or technology?
In China a large number of eco-city projects were developed, among which Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Dalian, whose eco-city pilot projects aim at investigating the potential of CE in terms of resource efficient use (e.g. energy intensity per GDP and water intensity per capita), municipal waste production, waste treatment and reclamation (rate of waste water treatment, rate of industrial solid waste reuse). The results show important progresses from 2005 to 2010 in the four mentioned Chinese eco-cities with the highest reductions observed in energy and water consumption indicators. The major drivers of performance improvement have been the Government intervention in high pollutant and energy consuming industrial sectors, by means of heavy industry relocation, the introduction of regulations in polluting sectors and the highest availability of energy efficient technologies and equipment in the four eco-cities referred to above, compared to other Chinese cities.
What are the points of interest of scientific collaboration with Italy in this field?
Napoli is the capital of the region Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. Napoli consists of ten different administrative districts, which have some independent organizational functions (such as the type of separate collection: door-to-door or bring-points-collection). Napoli has shown the highest urban waste generation in 2011 within Campania region (1.46E+09 kg/yr), due to its high population density and large tourist flows. Environmental issues of the current waste management system have received great attention, after the city of Napoli and surrounding provinces have struggled with waste management since the mid-90s. In spite of recent more focused waste management policies, the disposal emergency has not been totally solved yet. At the same time the implementation of new landfills was opposed by local population causing a strong social conflict. Political and scientific analyses of the waste crisis indicate the emergency situation was created by inappropriate waste management policy and practice. Illegal waste activities had increased considerably in those years, becoming the main driver of the 2008 waste crisis. Also as a consequence of this crisis, the European Court of Justice condemned Italy for late and incorrect application of waste Directives (Hazardous Waste Directive and the Landfill Directive). The proposal of a transition to “circular Napoli” is also, and mainly, the proposal for the abandonment of a situation where jobs and income depend on inadequate resource use and sometimes illegal management activities and waste market under the control of organized crime, towards a new business model where local population becomes aware of the potentiality of new lifestyles and collaborates to developing innovative economic models. Therefore, “circular Napoli” is also a matter of social, ethical, community, and equity advancement. The good case in Italy can provide a successful sample to Chinese cities.
What do you think are the strength points of the project regarding the path of growth and the study and research experiences of young students and researchers?
This project provides great opportunities to the young students and researchers to attend the international course and training, international internship and to pursue their own research ideas and lead a cooperated research. For instants, Prof. Sergio Ulgiati and I hosted the annual international course on Environmental Accounting and Management. In totally, more than 1000 students attended the offline course and more than 5000 students attended the online course. In 2019, Prof. Sergio Ulgiati, Prof. Francesco Gonella and I organized the International internship in Italy, which was also supported by this project. A group of Chinese undergraduated students visited Parthenope University in Napoli, Ca Foscari University in Venice, glass house, wastewater treatment plant COGEI in Nocera Superiore (Salerno), WEEE industrial park Ri.Plastic as well as Legambiente Center for Environmental Education in Potenza, to meet scientists, students and industrial operators involved in circular economy research in Italy. Students have demonstrated a great enthusiasm in strenghtening the sharing of experiences with the italian counterpart, as well as to develop an integrated knowledge about complex and important issues related to global sustainability problems.
How would you like to continue this collaboration? What are the most relevant issues for future cooperation?
This project will be a great start of our collaboration. Actually, we already have great cooperation foundation in the previous ten years. For instants, we have signed the Universities’ Memorandum of Understanding from 2007.The P.I. of Parthenope team, Sergio Ulgiati, was selected by the Chinese Government as “High End Foreign Expert” at BNU since 2013 and teaches at the School of Environment. The two P.I.’s co-edit an International Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management, SCOPUS indexed, since 2013.During such long-lasting collaboration, 40 peer-review co-authored papers were published, as a result of joint projects on energy, urban systems, wastewater treatment, waste management, water quality, environmental monitoring, sustainable production and consumption, transportation patterns. The Italian team members F. Gonella, S. Viglia and M. Casazza also visited BNU several times and gave lectures at School of Environment. Same did the Chinese team members Gengyuan Liu and Yang Zhifeng in Napoli and other co-organized events co-organized.The two teams submitted joint projects, some of which presently ongoing (project MOOC and project 111, among others).‘Remade in China’, a joint team of Parthenope and BNU, was selected finalist of the international WEGE prize (May 2017), Wege Foundation (USA) (http://www.wegeprize.org/news/2017/4/20/finalists-announced-for-wege-prize-2017), presenting a preliminary version of the Urban Circular Economy Calculator. Citta’ dellaScienza, a Science and Innovation Research Centre in Napoli, has been the Co-organizer of the China-Italy Science and Technology Innovation Week 2016 and will co-organize the next edition, Beijing, November 2017. And in 2019, we signed the agreement of Matteo Ricci Network (the China-Italy scientific collaboration networkcoordinated by Parthenope University and Beijing Normal University). In the future, we will maintain existing cooperation on journal, high-level papers, projects cooperation, courses and students guide. Besides, we will use our models and tools to the urban CE practices in both China and Italy cities and provide policy suggestions to the policy makers.