Tracking urban carbon footprints from production and consumption perspectives

Jianyi Lin, Yuanchao Hu, Shenghui Cui, Jiefeng Kang, Anu Ramaswami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Cities are hotspots of socio-economic activities and greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of this study was to extend the research range of the urban carbon footprint (CF) to cover emissions embodied in products traded among regions and intra-city sectors. Using Xiamen City as a study case, the total urban-related emissions were evaluated, and the carbon flows among regions and intra-city sectors were tracked. Then five urban CF accountings were evaluated, including purely geographic accounting (PGA), community-wide infrastructure footprint (CIF), and consumption-based footprint (CBF) methods, as well as the newly defined production-based footprint (PBF) and purely production footprint (PPF). Research results show that the total urban-related emissions of Xiamen City in 2010 were 55.2 Mt CO2e/y, of which total carbon flow among regions or intra-city sectors accounted for 53.7 Mt CO2e/y. Within the total carbon flow, import and export respectively accounted for 59 and 65%, highlighting the importance of emissions embodied in trade. By regional trade balance, North America and Europe were the largest net carbon exported-to regions, and Mainland China and Taiwan the largest net carbon imported-from regions. Among intra-sector carbon flows, manufacturing was the largest emission-consuming sector of the total urban carbon flow, accounting for 77.4, and 98% of carbon export was through industrial products trade. By the PBF, PPF, CIF, PGA and CBF methods, the urban CFs were respectively 53.7 Mt CO2e/y, 44.8 Mt CO2e/y, 28.4 Mt CO2e/y, 23.7 Mt CO2e/y, and 19.0 Mt CO2e/y, so all of the other four CFs were higher than the CBF. All of these results indicate that urban carbon mitigation must consider the supply chain management of imported goods, the production efficiency within the city, the consumption patterns of urban consumers, and the responsibility of the ultimate consumers outside the city.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • consumption-based accounting
  • emissions embodied in trade
  • production-based accounting
  • purely geographic accounting
  • urban carbon footprint


Dive into the research topics of 'Tracking urban carbon footprints from production and consumption perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this