Felix Creutzig, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany

Giovanni Baiocchi, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Robert Bierkandt & Paul Pichler, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Researc, Potsdam, germany

Karen C. Seto, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Presentation Title: A Global Typology of Urban Energy Use and Implications for Climate Change Mitigations



The aggregate potential for urban mitigation of global climate change is insufficiently understood. This analysis used a dataset of 274 cities representing all city sizes and regions worldwide, demonstrating that economic activity, transport costs, geographic factors and urban form explain 37% of urban direct energy use and 88% of urban transport energy use. The research highlights the significant potential of reducing energy use in rapidly urbanizing Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Of the 15 types of cities classified, the most important classification variable is population density – cities that are above 50 people per hectare exhibit different human behaviors with respect to emissions than those below this density.
  • Lowest emission types have characteristics which include: high density and a small household size; high density, higher household size, low income and also low heating degree days (climate variable).
  • Highest emission types include characteristics of low population density and high income, but with little influence from housing conditions.  
  • London is a very unique case with respect to the rest of England, as it has both the lowest and highest emissions types: Low emission types are found to be more within the center of the city (high pop density); highest emissions are located in the outer fringe.
  • If current trends in urban expansion continue, urban energy use will increase more than threefold from 240 exajoules (EJ) in 2005 to 730 EJ in 2050.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • The model shows that urban planning and transport policies can limit the future increase in urban energy use to 540 EJ in 2050 and contribute to mitigating climate change.