On the impact of urbanisation on CO2 emissions

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42949-023-00084-2. This is version 2 of this Preprint.

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Muhammad Luqman, Peter Rayner, Kevin Robert Gurney


We use a globally consistent, time-resolved data set of CO2 emission proxies to quantify urban CO2 emissions in 91 cities. We decompose emission trends into contributions from changes in urban extent, population density and per capita emission. We find that urban CO2 emissions are increasing everywhere but that the dominant contributors differ according to development level. A cluster analysis of factors shows that developing countries were dominated by cities with the rapid area and per capita CO2 emissions increases. Cities in the developed world, by contrast, show slow area and per capita CO2 emissions growth. China is an important intermediate case with rapid urban area growth combined with slower per capita CO2 emissions growth. Urban per capita emissions are often lower than their national average for many developed countries, suggesting that urbanisation may reduce overall emissions. However, trends in per capita urban emissions are higher than their national equivalent almost everywhere, suggesting that urbanisation will become a more serious problem in the future. An important exception is China,
whose per capita urban emissions are growing more slowly than the national value. We also see a negative correlation between trends in population density and per capita CO2 emissions, highlighting a strong role for densification as a tool to reduce CO2 emissions.




Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Remote Sensing, Urban GHG emissions, Urban GHG trends, GHG emission drivers, Kaya identity, Urban GHG trends, GHG emission drivers, Kaya identity


Published: 2021-11-01 03:21

Last Updated: 2023-02-16 11:29

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