The concept of city carbon maps: A case study of Melbourne, Australia

Cities are thought to be associated with most of humanity’s consumption of natural resources and impacts on the environment. Cities not only constitute major centers of economic activity, knowledge, innovation, and governance—they are also said to be linked to approximately 70% to 80% of global carbon dioxide emissions. This makes cities primary agents of change in a resource- and carbon-constraint world. In order to set meaningful targets, design successful policies, and implement effective mitigation strategies, it is important that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting for cities is accurate, comparable, comprehensive, and complete. Despite recent developments in the standardization of city GHG accounting, there is still a lack of consistent guidelines regarding out-of-boundary emissions, thus hampering efforts to identify mitigation priorities and responsibilities. We introduce a new conceptual framework—based on environmental input-output analysis—that allows for a consistent and complete reconciliation of direct and indirect GHG emissions from a city. The “city carbon map” shows local, regional, national, and global origins and destinations of flows of embodied emissions. We test the carbon map concept by applying it to the greater metropolitan area of Melbourne, Australia. We discuss the results and limitations of the approach in the light of possible mitigation strategies and policies by different urban stakeholders.

Wiedmann TO; Chen G; Barrett J (2015) , Journal of Industrial Ecology.