Cities “blind” to emissions, new CCCEP study finds

Posted on 15 Feb 2017 in ,

Cities remain blind to a huge slice of their overall carbon footprint, a new study by CCCEP researchers has found.

Calculations by the team at the University of Leeds, based on a study of Bristol, suggest that less than a third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity or the fuel used within its boundaries.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the city’s emissions are embedded in the goods and services that are imported into the city – especially via food and drink.

These so-called consumption-based emissions are rarely assessed, and few if any cities are actively managing them. They are therefore missing out on many of the most cost and carbon effective ways of reducing their emissions. Bristol for example could achieve the same level of emissions cuts from investing £3 billion in its buildings and transport systems by tackling food waste in the city.

Andy Gouldson, leader of the study, said: “Hundreds of cities around the world have adopted plans to tackle their carbon footprints. But it’s alarming that cities are not assessing a huge chunk of their carbon footprint.

“ If they were more aware of the significance of the carbon that’s embedded in the goods and services that they consume, they could adopt much more ambitious – and much more cost- and carbon-effective – approaches. Put together these could have a huge impact on global attempts to tackle climate change”.

Cities are increasingly aware of the so-called production-based emissions which come from electricity and fuel, and many are adopting plans and investing billions in reducing them. But the study concludes that cities need to look at the bigger picture and assess and then manage their consumption-based emissions in order to accelerate progress on decarbonisation and limiting climate change.

The paper, by Joel Millward-Hopkins, Andrew Gouldson, Kate Scott, John Barrett and Andrew Sudmant, is published in the February 2017 edition of Regional Environmental Change.