• New C40 research released at the Cities IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference takes a different look at city emissions, based on the goods and services consumed by urban citizens, including food, clothing, electronics, construction and air travel.
  • It reveals C40 cities have a 60% larger carbon footprint than previously estimated, giving mayors a greater opportunity to deliver on Paris Agreement goals.

 Edmonton, Canada (06 March 2018) — Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by the world’s greatest cities are as much as 60% higher than currently estimated, when also accounting for the impact of trade in goods and services between cities and the rest of the world.  New analysis by C40 Cities, the University of Leeds, University of New South Wales, and Arup examined the GHG emissions associated with goods and services consumed by residents of 79 C40 cities, including food, clothing, electronic equipment, air travel, delivery trucks and construction industries.

The research found that almost two-thirds of these consumption-based emissions are generated in the supply chains of goods and services imported from regions outside cities. Whilst a city government may have little direct control over these emissions sources, they are released because of a city’s demand for goods and services for its citizens. This “sphere of impact” creates opportunities for mayors, city officials and urban citizens committed to urgent climate action to influence a higher percentage of the world’s GHG emissions.

“By revealing the scale of emissions generated by the urban consumption of a range of everyday goods and services, including the food on supermarket shelves, air travel or online shopping and home delivery, consumers and policy makers can make better informed decisions about the impact their choices are having,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities. “Mayors need accurate data and scientific advice in order to make good policy decisions. This new research will help city policy makers to better understand the true impact of their city on global climate change, and so play an ever bigger leadership role in delivering climate action.”

The results of this study show that consumption-based GHG emissions of C40 cities are often significantly larger than the those calculated under alternative methods that focus primarily on GHG emissions taking place within the city boundary, such as the Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (GPC) BASIC level reporting standard. This is particularly true for cities in Europe, North America and Oceania, reflecting both the higher levels of consumption in those cities, and the global nature of supply chains of the goods and services used by their citizens. 15 cities, mostly in Europe and North America, have consumption-based GHG emissions at least three times the size of their emissions calculated using the GPC.

“If you look at the emissions from ‘consumer’ cities like London, Paris or New York, they have very little from industry, because their economies and workforces are no longer reliant on manufacturing and factories,” said Mark Watts. “Yet ‘producer’ cities in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, for example, are generating a lot of industrial pollution in the manufacture of products that will be sold and consumed in Europe and North America. By examining consumption-based GHG emissions alongside existing inventories, policy makers can get a more complete picture of the opportunities to reduce global GHG emissions and deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

The results of the study are presented at global and regional level, categorised by sector of the economy.  For cities in Africa, South & West Asia and Latin America, more than one fifth of their consumption based emissions are generated in food production, compared to well below 10% in North American or East Asian cities. In European cities, for example, expenditure on restaurants, hotels, recreation and culture account for as much as 8% of consumption based emissions. Public transport, which includes rail, shipping and aviation, contributes on average 10% to consumption-based GHG emissions across C40 cities.

To date, mayors of 35 C40 cities have publically committed to develop and begin implementing ambitious climate action plans by 2020 that go beyond national commitments, in order to achieve the highest goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level.

The research was presented today in Edmonton, Canada where the CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference is taking place.

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