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Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Chinese Cities


  • Lorraine Sugar,

  • Christopher Kennedy,

  • Edward Leman

Lorraine Sugar, University of Toronto, Department of Civil Engineering, 35 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A4, Canada.


As some of the most rapidly urbanizing places in the world, China's cities have a unique relationship with global climate change. The economies found in Chinese cities are extremely resource and energy intensive; as a result, they produce significant levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This article provides comprehensive and detailed emissions inventories for Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin, which were found to be responsible for 12.8, 10.7, and 11.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita (t CO2-eq/capita), respectively, in 2006. The majority of emissions were from electricity production, heating and industrial fuel use, and ground transportation. The prevalence of coal in the energy supply mix (including up to 98% in Tianjin) was a fundamental cause of high energy emissions. Non-energy emissions from industrial processes were also significant, including emissions from cement and steel production.

The GHG inventories for Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin point to sectors requiring the most attention in terms of low-carbon growth. Compared to ten other global cities, Chinese cities are among the highest per capita emitters, alluding to the important challenge China faces of reducing emissions while improving the quality of life for urban residents. Accordingly, this article concludes with a discussion of the opportunities and issues concerning low-carbon growth in China, including the potential for renewable energy and the difficulties associated with emissions relocation and policy adoption.