From Howard’s Garden City Movement to Zero-Carbon New Towns in the postgrowth era: The case of new town development in the context of carbon neutrality of Shanghai


  • Wei Wei Tongji University
  • Chen Chen Tongji University
  • Junqiao Li University College London


new town, sustainabilty, postgrowth, carbon neutrality, carbon financial market




From Howard's garden city movement to Taylor's concept of satellite cities, and to Saarinen's organic evacuation theory, the development of new towns has been affected by the background of the eras. As the largest metropolis in China, Shanghai's new towns have developed from first-generation bedroom towns to relatively independent satellite towns, and to new regional node towns. Nowadays, in the postgrowth era, sustainability and de-carbonization have become the new themes of urban development. The government announced that Shanghai will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. At the same time, Shanghai is actively establishing its carbon financial market, trying to achieve carbon neutrality by establishing a connection between the financial market and carbon resources.

Under these conditions, a new generation of new towns emerged. Five new towns built around the main city of Shanghai, namely Jiading New Town, Qingpu New Town, Songjiang New Town, Fengxian New Town, and Nanhui New Town, will serve as the first generation of zero-carbon new towns of Shanghai in the postgrowth era. These five new towns, while inheriting the functions of traditional new towns, also regard sustainable development and de-carbonization as the main themes of new town development. That is, these five new towns will take carbon neutrality and zero carbon output as their initial construction goals.

This article will use ‘carbon’ as the main narrative element to describe how the five new towns of Shanghai, namely Jiading New Town, Qingpu New Town, Songjiang New Town, Fengxian New Town, and Nanhui New Town, have developed from the aspects of resilient municipal facilities, healthy spatial environment, green buildings and transportation, efficient resource and energy, and smart governance systems to build a new generation of zero-carbon new towns. Among them, many innovative planning and governance measures have been applied to the development of these new towns, such as stipulating the application proportion of rooftop photovoltaics through policies and promoting the use of building energy-saving technologies through measures such as floor area ratio incentives for real estate development companies.

At the same time, this article will introduce how the development of new towns is connected with Shanghai's carbon financial market to achieve the purpose of de-carbonization. For example, each of the five new towns has established a corresponding "new town development company" and been allocated corresponding carbon quotas. This quota can be circulated as a kind of ‘currency’, and the carbon emissions of the new towns are linked to their carbon quotas. Carbon emissions of departments within the new towns will consume carbon quotas, and carbon emissions exceeding the quotas require quota trading and purchase.

Finally, this article created an evaluation system for five zero-carbon new towns from the aspects of land use, buildings, transportation, ecological environment, municipal facilities, energy, resources, and governance, and evaluated the construction status and carbon reduction effectiveness of the five new towns.


Song, Y., Liang, D., Liu, T. and Song, X., 2018. How China's current carbon trading policy affects carbon price? An investigation of the Shanghai Emission Trading Scheme pilot. Journal of Cleaner Production, 181, pp.374-384.

Wu, R., Dai, H., Geng, Y., Xie, Y., Masui, T. and Tian, X., 2016. Achieving China’s INDC through carbon cap-and-trade: Insights from Shanghai. Applied energy, 184, pp.1114-1122.

Ranhagen, U., 2014. Five new towns in Shanghai: Present situation and future perspectives. Kungliga Tekniska högskolan.

Pulselli, R.M., Broersma, S., Martin, C.L., Keeffe, G., Bastianoni, S. and van den Dobbelsteen, A., 2021. Future city visions. The energy transition towards carbon-neutrality: Lessons learned from the case of Roeselare, Belgium. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 137, p.110612.

Zhou, K. and Li, Y., 2019. Carbon finance and carbon market in China: Progress and challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, 214, pp.536-549.

Liu, Z., Deng, Z., He, G., Wang, H., Zhang, X., Lin, J., Qi, Y. and Liang, X., 2022. Challenges and opportunities for carbon neutrality in China. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 3(2), pp.141-155.

Wang, F., Harindintwali, J.D., Yuan, Z., Wang, M., Wang, F., Li, S., Yin, Z., Huang, L., Fu, Y., Li, L. and Chang, S.X., 2021. Technologies and perspectives for achieving carbon neutrality. The Innovation, 2(4).

Zhang, L., Hou, P. and Qiang, D., 2022. Transit-Oriented Development in New Towns: Identifying Its Association with Urban Function in Shanghai, China. Buildings, 12(9), p.1394.

Wu, S.S., Zhuang, Y., Chen, J., Wang, W., Bai, Y. and Lo, S.M., 2019. Rethinking bus-to-metro accessibility in new town development: Case studies in Shanghai. Cities, 94, pp.211-224.

Yi, L., Bai, N., Yang, L., Li, Z. and Wang, F., 2020. Evaluation on the effectiveness of China’s pilot carbon market policy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 246, p.119039.

Seelig, S., 2011. A master plan for low carbon and resilient housing: The 35 ha area in Hashtgerd New Town, Iran. Cities, 28(6), pp.545-556.

Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., 2020. Urban and transport planning pathways to carbon neutral, liveable and healthy cities; A review of the current evidence. Environment international, 140, p.105661.

Jorgenson, A.K., Auerbach, D. and Clark, B., 2014. The (de-) carbonization of urbanization, 1960–2010. Climatic Change, 127, pp.561-575.

Huang, B., Xing, K., Ness, D., Liao, L., Huang, K., Xie, P. and Huang, J., 2022. Rethinking carbon–neutral built environment: Urban dynamics and scenario analysis. Energy and Buildings, 255, p.111672.

Firman, T., 2004. New town development in Jakarta Metropolitan Region: a perspective of spatial segregation. Habitat international, 28(3), pp.349-368.

Merlin, P., 1980. The new town movement in Europe. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 451(1), pp.76-85.