City-level emission peak and drivers in China

Yuli Shan, Yuru Guan, Ye Hang, Heran Zheng, Yanxian Li, Dabo Guan*, Jiashuo Li, Ya Zhou, Li Li, Klaus Hubacek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


China is playing an increasing role in global climate change mitigation, and local authorities need more city-specific information on the emissions trends and patterns when designing low-carbon policies. This study provides the most comprehensive CO2 emission inventories of 287 Chinese cities from 2001 to 2019. The emission inventories are compiled for 47 economic sectors and include energy-related emissions for 17 types of fossil fuels and process-related emissions from cement production. We further investigate the state of the emission peak in each city and reveal hidden driving forces. The results show that 38 cities have proactively peaked their emissions for at least five years and another 21 cities also have emission decline, but passively. The 38 proactively peaked cities achieved emission decline mainly by efficiency improvements and structural changes in energy use, while the 21 passively emission declined cities reduced emissions at the cost of economic recession or population loss. We propose that those passively emission declined cities need to face up to the reasons that caused the emission to decline, and fully exploit the opportunities provided by industrial innovation and green investment brought by low-carbon targets to achieve economic recovery and carbon mitigation goals. Proactively peaked cities need to seek strategies to maintain the downward trend in emissions and avoid an emission rebound and thus provide successful models for cities with still growing emissions to achieve an emission peak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1910-1920
Number of pages11
JournalScience Bulletin
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 30-Sept-2022


  • City
  • Climate change
  • CO emissions
  • Drivers
  • Emission peak

Cite this