Accounting for Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Materials at the Urban Scale-Relating Existing Process Life Cycle Assessment Studies to Urban Material and Waste Composition


Although many cities are engaged in efforts to calculate and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most are accounting for scope one emissions i.e., GHGs produced within urban boundaries (for example, following the protocol of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). Cities should also account for the emissions associated with goods, services and materials consumed within their boundaries, scope three emissions. The emissions related to urban consumption patterns and choices greatly influence overall emissions that can be associated with an urban area. However, data constraints and GHG accounting complexity present challenges. In this paper we propose one approach that cities can take to measure the GHG emissions of their material consumption: the solid waste life cycle assessment (LCA) based approach. We used this approach to identify a set of materials commonly consumed within cities, and reviewed published life cycle assessment data to determine the GHG emissions associated with production of each. Our review reveals that among fourteen commonly consumed materials, textiles and aluminum are associated with the highest GHG emissions per tonne of production. Paper and plastics have relatively lower production emissions, but a potentially higher impact on overall emissions owing to their large proportions, by weight, in the consumption stream.

Share and Cite:

Kissinger, M. , Sussmann, C. , Moore, J. and Rees, W. (2013) Accounting for Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Materials at the Urban Scale-Relating Existing Process Life Cycle Assessment Studies to Urban Material and Waste Composition. Low Carbon Economy, 4, 36-44. doi: 10.4236/lce.2013.41004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] G. L. R. Brown, “Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth,” Norton, New York, 2001.
[2] N. Grimm, S. Faeth, N. Golubiewski, C. Redman, J. Wu, X. Bai and J. Briggs, “Global Change and the Ecology of Cities,” Science, Vol. 319, No. 5864, 2008, pp. 756-760. doi:10.1126/science.1150195
[3] W. E. Rees, “Cities as Dissipative Structures: Global Change and the Vulnerability of Urban Civilization,” In: M. P. Weinstein and R. E. Turner, Eds., Sustainability Science: The Emerging Paradigm and the Urban Environment, Springer, New York, 2012, pp. 247-273.
[4] World Bank, “Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda,” Urban Development Series Knowledge Papers, Vol. 10, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Bank, Washington DC, 2010.
[5] P. Newman, T. Beatley and H. Boyer, “Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change,” Island Press, Washington DC, 2009.
[6] J. Moore, “Measuring Climate Action in Vancouver: Comparing a City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Protocol to the Inventory of Consumption,” In: B. Richardson, Ed., Local Climate Change Law: Environmental Regulation in Cities and Other Localities, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., Cheltenham, 2012.
[7] D. Dodman, “Blaming Cities for Climate Change? An Analysis of Urban Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories,” Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2009, pp. 185-201. doi:10.1177/09 56247809103016
[8] S. Bastioni, F. Pulsellini and E. Tiezzi, “The Problem of Assigning Responsibility for Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2004, pp. 253-257. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon. 2004.01.018
[9] J. Feng, “Allocating the Responsibility of CO2 Over-Emissions from the Perspectives of Benefit Principle and Ecological Deficit,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2003, pp. 121-141. doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(03)00104-6
[10] J. Munksgard and K. A. Pedersen, “CO2 Accounts for Open Economies: Producer or Consumer Responsibility?” Energy Policy, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2001, pp. 327-334. doi:10.1016/S0301-4215(00)00120-8
[11] ICLEI, “International Local Government Greenhouse Gas Emissions Analysis Protocol—Version 1.0,” 2009.
[12] R. Barthelmie, S. Morris and P. Schechter, “Carbon Neutral Biggar: Calculating the Community Carbon Footprint and Renewable Energy Options for Footprint Reduction,” Sustainability Science, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2008, pp. 267-282. doi:10.1007/s11625-008-0059-8
[13] C. Kennedy, J. Steinberger, B. Gasson, Y. Hansen, T, Hillman, M. Havranek, D. Pataki, D. Phdungsilp, A. Ramaswami and G. Mendez, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 43, No. 19, 2009, pp. 7297-7302. doi:10.1021/es900213p
[14] J. Bi, R. Zhang, H. Wang, M. Liu and Y. Wu, “The Benchmarks of Carbon Emissions and Policy Implications for China’s Cities: Case of Nanjing,” Energy Policy, Vol. 39, No. 9, 2011, pp. 4785-4794. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.06.045
[15] C. Kennedy, J. Cuddihy and J. Engel-Yan, “The Changing Metabolism of Cities,” Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2007, pp. 43-59. doi:10.1162/jie.2007.1107
[16] T. Hillman and A. Ramaswami, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Footprints and Energy Use Benchmarks for Eight US Cities,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2010, pp.1902-1910. doi:10.1021/es9024194
[17] Y. Yang and S. Suh, “Environmental Impacts of Products in China,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 45, No. 14, 2011, pp. 4102-4109. doi:10.1021/es103206g
[18] A. Druckman and T. Jackson, “The Carbon Footprint of UK Households 1990-2004: A Socio-economically Disaggregated, Quasi-multi-regional Input-output Model,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 68, No. 6, 2009, pp. 2066-2077. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.01.013
[19] M. Lenzen and G. Peters, “How City Dwellers Affect Their Resource Hinterland—A Spatial Impact Study of Australian Household,” Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2009, pp. 73-90. doi:10.1111/j.1530-9290.2009.00190.x
[20] J. Munksgaard, M. Wier, M. Lenzen and C. Dey, “Using Input-Output Analysis to Measure the Environmental Pressure of Consumption at Different Spatial Levels,” Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 2005, pp. 169-185. doi:10.1162/1088198054084699
[21] J. Moore, M. Kissinger and W. E. Rees, “An Urban Metabolism Assessment of Metro Vancouver,” Journal of Environmental Management, in Press.
[22] M. Kissinger and A. Haim, “Urban Hinterlands: The Case of an Israeli Town Ecological Footprint,” Environment Development and Sustainability, Vol. 10, No. 4, 2008, pp. 391-405. doi:10.1007/s10668-006-9071-2
[23] J. Barrett, H. Vallack, A. Jones and G. Haq, “A Material Flow Analysis and Ecological Footprint of York,” Stockholm Environmental Institute, Stockholm, 2001.
[24] C. Simmons, K. Lewis and J. Barrett, “Two Feet—Two Approaches: A Component-Based Model of Ecological Footprinting,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2000, pp. 375-380.
[25] C. Simmons and N. Chambers, “Footprinting UK Households: How Big Is Your Ecological Garden?” Local Environment, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1998, pp. 355-362. doi:10.1080/13549839808725571
[26] N. Chambers, C. Simmons and M. Wackernagel, “Sharing Natures Interest,” Earthscan, London, 2000.
[27] APC, “Kerbside Domestic Waste and Recycling Audit,” APC Environmental Management, Sydney, 2009.
[28] IMEP, “Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, 2005 Waste Composition Study,” 2006.
[29] B. Vigon, “European Platform on Life cycle Assessment,” Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2006, pp. 39-40.
[30] European Commission—Joint Research Centre—Institute for Environment and Sustainability, “International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILDC) Handbook—Recommendations for Life Cycle Impact Assessment in the European Context,” Publications Office of the European Union, Luxemburg, 2011.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.