Low-Carbon Cities: Slides from Ph.D. candidate Tong's presentation

Low-Carbon Cities: Infrastructure Analysis and Transitions


Kangkang Tong, Ph.D. candidate
Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota


Infrastructure related activities are responsible for ~90% of anthropogenic carbon emissions globally. It is predicted that additional 2.5 billion will be added to urban population by 2050, while over 60% of built-up areas including basic infrastructure has not yet been constructed to serve this large population. It's time to rethink how to build cities and infrastructure for a low-carbon future. My research aims to reveal how infrastructure strategies in cities can contribute to carbon mitigation at the city and the national level. Carbon analysis studies mainly focus on China, because it is the largest carbon emitter with ongoing urbanization. Thus, it is urgent to study low-carbon cities in China with the emphasis on infrastructure.

My research developed a Chinese City-Infrastructure Database including energy use from industrial, commercial, residential, and transportation. This database is aligned with national data reported officially with less than 1% difference. The estimate demonstrated that over 60% of national energy-related carbon emissions are from cities collectively.

More specifically, I lead a project to implement the community-wide infrastructure-based carbon footprinting (CIF) in four Chinese cities with various sizes. Results demonstrated that in-boundary industrial energy use is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions (24%~67%) in total CIF. Based on the understanding of carbon emissions in Chinese cities, utilizing industrial waste heat in district heating/cooling systems in cities is a potential cross-sectoral action to further mitigate carbon emissions from the industrial sector. A methodology is developed and implemented in 20 Chinese cities to quantify the carbon mitigation potential of utilizing industrial waste heat to heat and cool building in northern and southern areas respectively.

Results demonstrated the 12% ~ 91% carbon mitigation from heating energy use across 11 northern cities, and 12% ~100% carbon mitigation from cooling energy use across 9 southern cities. Further upscaling this action to the national level, our analysis found that this actions can contribute to additional 20% of carbon mitigation, compared to the total of single sectoral mitigation. Overall, my dissertation demonstrated that cross-sectoral infrastructure strategies in cities can play a significant role in mitigating carbon at the city and national level.
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