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Journal Article

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


Zheng,  Heran
External Organizations;

Zhang,  Zengkai
External Organizations;

Dietzenbacher,  Erik
External Organizations;

Zhou,  Ya
External Organizations;


Többen,  Johannes
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Feng,  Kuishuang
External Organizations;

Moran,  Daniel
External Organizations;

Jiang,  Meng
External Organizations;

Shan,  Yuli
External Organizations;

Wang,  Daoping
External Organizations;

Liu,  Xiaoyu
External Organizations;

Li,  Li
External Organizations;

Zhao,  Dandan
External Organizations;

Meng,  Jing
External Organizations;

Ou,  Jiamin
External Organizations;

Guan,  Dabo
External Organizations;

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Zheng, H., Zhang, Z., Dietzenbacher, E., Zhou, Y., Többen, J., Feng, K., Moran, D., Jiang, M., Shan, Y., Wang, D., Liu, X., Li, L., Zhao, D., Meng, J., Ou, J., Guan, D. (2023): Leveraging opportunity of low carbon transition by super-emitter cities in China. - Science Bulletin, 68, 2456-2466.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_29375
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.