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Scientific journal publication

Leveraging opportunity of low carbon transition by super-emitter cities in China

Zheng, Heran; Zhang, Zengkai; Dietzenbacher, Erik; Zhou, Ya; Többen, Johannes Reinhard; Feng, Kuishuang; Moran, Daniel Dean; Jiang, Meng; Shan, Yuli; Wang, Daoping; Liu, Xiaoyu; Li, Li; Zhao, Dandan; Meng, Jing; Ou, Jiamin; Guan, Dabo

Publication details

Journal: Science Bulletin, vol. 68, 2456–2466, 2023

Doi: doi.org/10.1016/j.scib.2023.08.016

Chinese cities are core in the national carbon mitigation and largely affect global decarbonisation initiatives, yet disparities between cities challenge country-wide progress. Low-carbon transition should preferably lead to a convergence of both equity and mitigation targets among cities. Inter-city supply chains that link the production and consumption of cities are a factor in shaping inequality and mitigation but less considered aggregately. Here, we modelled supply chains of 309 Chinese cities for 2012 to quantify carbon footprint inequality, as well as explored a leverage opportunity to achieve an inclusive low-carbon transition. We revealed significant carbon inequalities: the 10 richest cities in China have per capita carbon footprints comparable to the US level, while half of the Chinese cities sit below the global average. Inter-city supply chains in China, which are associated with 80% of carbon emissions, imply substantial carbon leakage risks and also contribute to socioeconomic disparities. However, the significant carbon inequality implies a leveraging opportunity that substantial mitigation can be achieved by 32 super-emitting cities. If the super-emitting cities adopt their differentiated mitigation pathway based on affluence, industrial structure, and role of supply chains, up to 1.4 Gt carbon quota can be created, raising 30% of the projected carbon quota to carbon peak. The additional carbon quota allows the average living standard of the other 60% of Chinese people to reach an upper-middle-income level, highlighting collaborative mechanism at the city level has a great potential to lead to a convergence of both equity and mitigation targets.