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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 19;112(20):6283-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1315545112. Epub 2015 Jan 12.

Global typology of urban energy use and potentials for an urbanization mitigation wedge.

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Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, 10829 Berlin, Germany; Technische Universtität Berlin, 10623 Berlin, Germany;
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742;
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14473 Potsdam, Germany; and.
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT 06511.


The aggregate potential for urban mitigation of global climate change is insufficiently understood. Our analysis, using a dataset of 274 cities representing all city sizes and regions worldwide, demonstrates that economic activity, transport costs, geographic factors, and urban form explain 37% of urban direct energy use and 88% of urban transport energy use. If current trends in urban expansion continue, urban energy use will increase more than threefold, from 240 EJ in 2005 to 730 EJ in 2050. Our 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. However, effective policies for reducing urban greenhouse gas emissions differ with city type. The results show that, for affluent and mature cities, higher gasoline prices combined with compact urban form can result in savings in both residential and transport energy use. In contrast, for developing-country cities with emerging or nascent infrastructures, compact urban form, and transport planning can encourage higher population densities and subsequently avoid lock-in of high carbon emission patterns for travel. The results underscore a significant potential urbanization wedge for reducing energy use in rapidly urbanizing Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.


energy use; manufactured capital; urban climate change mitigation; urbanization

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