Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2014, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (4): 651-668.doi: 10.1007/s11442-014-1111-5

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Multi-scale integrated assessment of urban energy use and CO2 emissions

Lijun ZHANG1,2(), Gangjun LIU3, Yaochen QIN1,2,*()   

  1. 1. College of Environment and Planning, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, Henan, China
    2. Henan Collaborative Innovation Center for Coordinating Industrialization, Urbanization and Agriculture Modernization in Central Economic Zone, Kaifeng 475004, Henan, China
    3. College of Science, Engineering and Health, RMIT University, Melbourne 3000, Australia
  • Received:2014-01-06 Accepted:2014-02-20 Online:2014-04-20 Published:2014-04-20
  • Contact: Yaochen QIN;
  • About author:

    Author: Zhang Lijun (1985-), Lecturer, specialized in regional sustainable development. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171438.National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), No.2012CB955804.National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41201602


Accurate and detailed accounting of energy-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is crucial to the evaluation of pressures on natural resources and the environment, as well as to the assignment of responsibility for emission reductions. However, previous emission inventories were usually production- or consumption-based accounting, and few studies have comprehensively documented the linkages among socio-economic activities and external transaction in urban areas. Therefore, we address this gap in proposing an analytical framework and accounting system with three dimensions of boundaries to comprehensively assess urban energy use and related CO2 emissions. The analytical framework depicted the input, transformation, transfer and discharge process of the carbon-based (fossil) energy flows through the complex urban ecosystems, and defined the accounting scopes and boundaries on the strength of ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘urban metabolism’. The accounting system highlighted the assessment for the transfer and discharge of socio-economic subsystems with different spatial boundaries. Three kinds methods applied to Beijing City explicitly exhibited the accounting characteristics. Our research firstly suggests that urban carbon-based energy metabolism can be used to analyze the process and structure of urban energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Secondly, three kinds of accounting methods use different benchmarks to estimate urban energy use and CO2 emissions with their distinct strength and weakness. Thirdly, the empirical analysis in Beijing City demonstrate that the three kinds of methods are complementary and give different insights to discuss urban energy-induced CO2 emissions reduction. We deduce a conclusion that carbon reductions responsibility can be assigned in the light of production, consumption and shared responsibility based principles. Overall, from perspective of the industrial and energy restructuring and the residential lifestyle changes, our results shed new light on the analysis on the evolutionary mechanism and pattern of urban energy-induced CO2 emissions with the combination of three kinds of methods. And the spatial structure adjustment and technical progress provides further elements for consideration about the scenarios of change in urban energy use and CO2 emissions.

Key words: complex ecosystem, urban metabolism, carbon-based energy, CO2 emissions, accounting methods