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Article in Nature Climate Change: Impacts of COVID-19 and fiscal stimuli on global emissions and the Paris Agreement | Yuli Shan and Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:23 December 2020

The global economy is facing a serious recession due to COVID-19, with implications for CO2 emissions. Here, using a global adaptive multiregional input–output model and scenarios of lockdown and fiscal counter measures, we show that global emissions from economic sectors will decrease by 3.9 to 5.6% in 5 years (2020 to 2024) compared with a no-pandemic baseline scenario (business as usual for economic growth and carbon intensity decline). Global economic interdependency via supply chains means that blocking one country’s economic activities causes the emissions of other countries to decrease even without lockdown policies. Supply-chain effects contributed 90.1% of emissions decline from power production in 2020 but only 13.6% of transport sector reductions. Simulations of follow-up fiscal stimuli in 41 major countries increase global 5-yr emissions by −6.6 to 23.2 Gt (−4.7 to 16.4%), depending on the strength and structure of incentives. Therefore, smart policy is needed to turn pandemic-related emission declines into firm climate action.

Pandemic and forthcoming stimulus funds could bring climate targets in sight – or not
Posted on:22 December 2020

The lockdowns that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, in the recovery phase, emissions could rise to levels above those projected before the pandemic. It all depends on how the stimulus money that governments inject into their economies is spent.

Groningen puts climate adaptation on the worldwide map in January
Posted on:16 December 2020

It’s probably the biggest challenge of the 21st century: the changing climate. Consequences of flooding due to heavy rainfall, heatwaves, and draughts have an increasing impact on our daily lives. How we can adapt to these consequences is the main subject of the Climate Adaptation Week Groningen (The Netherlands) from Tuesday 19 until Monday 25 January 2021. It is the run-up festival to the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) on 25 January 2021, where world leaders will unite online to talk about concrete global actions concerning climate adaptation. Groningen is providing substantive content to that summit from youth, Nobel Prize Laureates and IPCC members.

ESRIG newsletter | December
Posted on:14 December 2020

ESRIG newsletter | November 2020

SuSo PhD Grant for PhD student Dan Wang
Posted on:01 December 2020

SuSo PhD Grant for PhD student Dan Wang: Each year PhD students from the University of Groningen can apply for the Sustainable Society PhD Grant. This grant is intended to enable PhD candidates to gain relevant experience during their doctoral programme, to broaden their network and to further promote their research. The aim is to enable them to acquire additional experience on top of their regular activities. In total 9 PhD students received a grant this year. These grants were awarded during a digital Grant Ceremony on 12 November 2020. Winners were asked to prepare a pitch to present their research during the ceremony. The PhD candidate with the best and most persuasive pitch will receive a bonus prize: the possibility to visualize his/her research by a professional designer. This visualization will serve the goal of increasing and stimulating the visibility and impact of PhD research.

IREES celebrates 3 researchers on Highly Cited Researchers 2020 List
Posted on:26 November 2020

ESRIG is proud to announce that 3 of our academics have been named on the annual Highly Cited Researchers™ 2020 list from Clarivate.

ESRIG newsletter | November
Posted on:03 November 2020

ESRIG newsletter | November 2020

Reusing tableware can reduce waste from online food deliveries | Interview with Yuli Shan by Science Linx
Posted on:25 September 2020

In China, approximately 10 billion online food orders were served to over 400 million customers in 2018. Together with colleagues from China and the UK, Yuli Shan, an environmental scientist at the University of Groningen, found that reusable tableware can substantially reduce packaging waste and life cycle environmental emissions.

PhD position in Complex Networks and Maximum Entropy Production Principle (220299)
Posted on:22 September 2020

PhD position in Complex Networks and Maximum Entropy Production Principle (220299), IREES/ESRIG.

Article in Sustainability: Mapping the Dutch Energy Transition Hyperlink Network | Nuccio Ludovico and Franco Ruzzenenti
Posted on:17 September 2020

The Internet facilitates connections between a range of Dutch actors with a stake in the energy transition, including governments, environmental organizations, media outlets and corporations. These connections tease a hyperlink network affecting public access to information on energy transition issues. Despite its societal relevance, however, the characteristics of this network remain understudied. The main goals of this study are to shed some light on the topological characteristics of the Dutch energy transition hyperlink network and reveal the main topics discussed in the network. To do so, we longitudinally collected data from the interactions between key Dutch actors with a stake in the energy transition. Then, these data were analyzed by employing a mixed-method approach, social network analysis and topic modeling. The results of the social network analyses reveal the existence of a sparse network in which few private companies and associations emerge as the most authoritative actors and brokers. Furthermore, our analyses show substantial differences among the communication agendas of the organizations of the Dutch energy transition hyperlink network; while public institutions focus on global, national and local policy issues, private companies, associations and NGOs pay much more attention to employment issues.

Article in Nature Food: Sharing tableware reduces waste generation, emissions and water consumption in China’s takeaway packaging waste dilemma | Yuli Shan
Posted on:16 September 2020

China has a rapidly growing online food delivery and takeaway market, serving 406 million customers with 10.0 billion orders and generating 323 kilotonnes of tableware and packaging waste in 2018. Here we use a top-down approach with city-level takeaway order data to explore the packaging waste and life-cycle environmental impacts of the takeaway industry in China. The ten most wasteful cities, with just 7% of the population, in terms of per capita waste generation, were responsible for 30% of the country’s takeaway waste, 27–34% of the country’s pollutant emissions and 30% of the country’s water consumption. We defined one paper substitution and two sharing tableware scenarios to simulate the environmental mitigation potentials. The results of the scenario simulations show that sharing tableware could reduce waste generation by up to 92%, and environmental emissions and water consumption by more than two-thirds. Such a mechanism provides a potential solution to address the food packaging waste dilemma and a new strategy for promoting sustainable and zero-waste lifestyles.

Article in Journal of Cleaner Production: Household carbon and energy inequality in Latin American and Caribbean countries | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:08 September 2020

Reducing inequality, eradicating poverty and achieving a carbon-neutral society are recognized as important components of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In this study, we focus on carbon and energy inequality between and within ten Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. Detailed carbon and energy footprint were estimated by combining the consumption profiles (2014) in ten LAC countries with environmental extended multi-regional input-output (MRIO) analysis. Our results show significant inequality of regional total and per capita carbon and energy footprint across the studied LAC countries in 2014. The top 10% income category was responsible for 29.1% and 26.3% of the regional total carbon and energy footprint, and their per capita carbon and energy footprint were 12.2 and 7.5 times of the bottom 10% earners in that region. The average carbon footprint of studied LAC countries varied between 0.53 and 2.21 t CO2e/cap (ton of CO2 equivalent, per capita), and the energy footprint ranged from 0.38 to 1.76 t SOE/cap (ton of Standard Oil Equivalent, per capita). The huge difference in total and per capita carbon emissions and energy consumption of different income groups suggests notable differences in climate change responsibility, and supports policies for achieving sustainable consumption in terms of carbon tax, renewable energy subsidy, and decarbonizing the consumption structure in different LAC countries.

Article in Journal of Cleaner Production: Household carbon inequality in the U.S.
Posted on:02 September 2020

Household carbon emissions are mainly affected by income as well as demographic factors. Understanding the contribution of these factors can inform climate responsibilities and potential demand-side climate mitigation strategies. By linking US consumer expenditure survey data with a nested national within a global multi-regional input-output model, this study estimates consumption-based GHG emissions for 9 income groups and assesses the carbon inequality in the US for 2015. Our results show that the per capita carbon footprint (CF) of the highest income group (>200 thousand USD per year) with 32.3 tons is about 2.6 times the per capita CF of the lowest income group (<15 thousand USD) with 12.3 tons. This is due to large gap in consumption volume and associated carbon emissions along the entire global production chain. Consumption pattern tends to narrow the gap in household per capita CF between income groups due to the lower carbon intensity per dollar spent by higher income groups. Another important factor influencing carbon footprints is household size and thus sharing of household equipment and other consumption items. The US average per capita CF is 18.1 tons compared to the global average of approximately 5 tons. The high carbon footprint across income groups in the US is largely due to the large contribution of emissions from heating and cooling and private transport, which reflects the settlement structure and lifestyles in the US, relying heavily on cars and living in larger houses.

Participatory modelling in adaptive environmental management: a case study in semi-arid northern Nicaragua
Posted on:31 August 2020

In this authoritative book, leading international experts examine the use of scenario analyses and modelling in environmental assessments. Including chapters with a global or regional focus as well as in-depth case studies from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, contributors analyse the latest research on the applications of scenarios and models and explore the opportunities and challenges in using them for policy relevant research and action.

Modelling the renewable transition: Scenarios and pathways for a decarbonized future using pymedeas, a new open-source energy systems model
Posted on:12 August 2020

This paper reviews different approaches to modelling the energy transition towards a zero carbon economy. It identifies a number of limitations in current approaches such as a lack of consideration of out-of-equilibrium situations (like an energy transition) and non-linear feedbacks. To tackle those issues, the new open source integrated assessment model pymedeas is introduced, which allows the exploration of the design and planning of appropriate strategies and policies for decarbonizing the energy sector at World and EU level. The main novelty of the new open-source model is that it addresses the energy transition by considering biophysical limits, availability of raw materials, and climate change impacts. This paper showcases the model capabilities through several simulation experiments to explore alternative pathways for the renewable transition. In the selected scenarios of this work, future shortage of fossil fuels is found to be the most influential factor of the simulations system evolution. Changes in efficiency and climate change damages are also important determinants influencing model outcomes.

A new study demonstrates: substitution of petrochemical plastic with bioplastics creates other problems
Posted on:11 August 2020

A new study “The Unintended Side Effects of Bioplastics: Carbon, Land and Water Footprints” conducted by a multinational team of environmental scientists demonstrate that replacing all petrochemical plastic packaging with bioplastics is not feasible as this would lead to burden-shifting of environmental impacts. The assessment carried out in the study shows that increased use of bioplastics will result in significant growth of land and water use.

Article in the Royal Society: Low-carbon development via greening global value chains: a case study of Belarus
Posted on:29 July 2020

The rise of global value chains (GCVs) has seen the transfer of carbon emissions embodied in every step of international trade. Building a coordinated, inclusive and green GCV can be an effective and efficient way to achieve carbon emissions mitigation targets for countries that participate highly in GCVs. In this paper, we first describe the energy consumption as well as the territorial and consumption-based carbon emissions of Belarus and its regions from 2010 to 2017. The results show that Belarus has a relatively clean energy structure with 75% of Belarus' energy consumption coming from imported natural gas. The ‘chemical, rubber and plastic products' sector has expanded significantly over the past few years; its territorial-based emissions increased 10-fold from 2011 to 2014, with the ‘food processing' sector displaying the largest increase in consumption-based emissions. An analysis of regional emissions accounts shows that there is significant regional heterogeneity in Belarus with Mogilev, Gomel and Vitebsk having more energy-intensive manufacturing industries. We then analysed the changes in Belarus' international trade as well as its emission impacts. The results show that Belarus has changed from a net carbon exporter in 2011 to a net carbon importer in 2014. Countries along the Belt and Road Initiative, such as Russia, China, Ukraine, Poland and Kazakhstan, are the main trading partners and carbon emission importers/exporters for Belarus. ‘Construction’ and ‘chemical, rubber and plastic products' are two major emission-importing sectors in Belarus, while ‘electricity' and ‘ferrous metals' are the primary emission-exporting sectors. Possible low-carbon development pathways are discussed for Belarus through the perspectives of global supply and the value chain.

Article in Scientific Data: Japan prefectural emission accounts and socioeconomic data 2007 to 2015
Posted on:13 July 2020

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan largely moved away from nuclear power generation and turned back towards an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels. As a result, the pace towards reaching emission reduction targets has largely slowed down. This situation indicates that higher emissions will continue to be generated if there is no appropriate and efficient measurement implemented to bridge the energy demand gap. To contribute adequate mitigation policies, a detailed inventory of both CO2 emissions and socioeconomic factors, both at the national and regional level, should be issued. Thereby, this work contributes to a time-series emission with a record of 47 prefectures in Japan as well as their associated socioeconomic features. The compiled emission inventory is based on three major fossil fuels and 26 sectors with careful emission allocations for regional electricity generation. This dataset is uniformly formatted and can be expected to provide vital information to set regional reduction allowances and sectoral reduction priorities.

Slow easing of lockdowns may be better for global economy
Posted on:03 June 2020

A cautious approach to easing lockdown restrictions that reduces the risk of later lockdowns may be better for the global supply chain in the long run, according to a new modelling study by a global team with partners from Europe, the UK, the US and China.

The paper, published today in Nature Human Behaviour , is the first peer-reviewed study to comprehensively assess potential global supply chain effects of Covid-19 lockdowns, modelling the impact of lockdowns on 140 countries, including countries not directly affected by Covid-19.

Article in Nature Climate Change: Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement | Yuli Shan
Posted on:03 June 2020

Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement. Government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically altered patterns of energy demand around the world. Many international borders were closed and populations were confined to their homes, which reduced transport and changed consumption patterns. Here we compile government policies and activity data to estimate the decrease in CO2 emissions during forced confinements. Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by –17% (–11 to –25% for ±1σ) by early April 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels, just under half from changes in surface transport. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by –26% on average. The impact on 2020 annual emissions depends on the duration of the confinement, with a low estimate of –4% (–2 to –7%) if prepandemic conditions return by mid-June, and a high estimate of –7% (–3 to –13%) if some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of 2020. Government actions and economic incentives postcrisis will likely influence the global CO2 emissions path for decades.

Climate change, the coronavirus, and the economy | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:25 May 2020

Climate change caused by carbon emissions is the leading global environmental problem today. Mitigating carbon emissions and adapting to climate change requires the integration of different types of approaches to support the transformation of society towards sustainability.

Article in Journal of Cleaner Production: Decomposition and attribution analysis for assessing the progress in decoupling industrial development from wastewater discharges in China | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:28 April 2020

China's strategy of greening industrial development aims to decouple industrial growth from industrial wastewater discharges (IWDs). This study combines decoupling analysis, decomposition analysis, and attribution analysis to support the goal. First, the decoupling analysis is employed to explore the decoupling states between industrial growth and IWDs in China, as well as across 30 provinces, from 2000 to 2015. Next, the decomposition analysis focusing on the change in industrial wastewater discharge intensity (IWDI) is performed to reveal the factors influencing the decoupling trends. Then, the attribution analysis is used to attribute the contributions of these factors to different regions. Our decoupling results indicate an increasing decoupling trend between industrial output and IWDs in China in the past 15 years. Meanwhile, there is a witnessed convergence in decoupling degrees among provinces. Decomposition results reveal that the water intensity plays the dominant role in promoting decoupling, while the wastewater discharge coefficient negatively impacts decoupling before 2005 but then exhibits a promotion effect. Regional attribution results indicate provinces in South China have exerted more efforts in both of water saving and wastewater treatment during the study period. Water scarce provinces in North China performs better in the water saving, while more developed and water rich provinces in South China provinces performs better in wastewater treatment. This paper suggests targeted policy methods at province level.

Article in Environmental Science and Technology: Drivers toward a Low-Carbon Electricity System in China’s Provinces | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:06 April 2020

Decarbonization of the power sector is one of the most important efforts to meet the climate mitigation targets under the Paris Agreement. China’s power sector is of global importance, accounting for 25% of global electricity production in 2015. The carbon intensity of China’s electricity is still much higher than the global average, but the country has made important strides toward a low-carbon transition based on two main pillars: improvement of energy efficiency and decreasing the share of fossil fuels. By applying a decoupling indicator, our study shows that 21 provinces achieved a “relative decoupling” of carbon emissions and electricity production and the remaining nine provinces achieved “absolute decoupling” between 2005 and 2015. We updated China’s emission factors based on the most recent data by also considering the quality of imported coal and compared our results with the widely used Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change coefficients to show the sensitivity of results and the potential error. Our decomposition analysis shows that improvement of energy efficiency was the dominant driver for decarbonization of 16 provincial power sectors, while the access to low-carbon electricity and substitution of natural gas for coal and oil further accelerated their decarbonization.

Article in Energies: An Exploratory Agent-Based Modeling Analysis Approach to Test Business Models for Electricity Storage | Ahmad Mir Mohammadi Kooshknow
Posted on:02 April 2020

Electricity storage systems (ESSs) are potential solutions to facilitate renewable energy transition. Lack of viable business models, as well as high levels of uncertainty in technology, economic, and institutional factors, form main barriers for wide implementation of ESSs worldwide and in the Netherlands. Therefore, the design of business models for an ESS is necessary for the development of ESSs. We elaborated on this problem before, and developed a design space for business models of ESSs in the context of the Netherlands. This conceptual paper provides a further view on barriers and uncertainties of ESS development in the Netherlands through the involvement of a business practitioner, elaboration of goals, objectives, and testing of ESS business model designs, suggests and provides a theoretical foundation for combining agent-based modeling and exploratory modeling analysis as a method to test and explore ESS business models, and provides an abstract conceptual agent-based model design thereof. This work can be used as a foundation of detailed design and implementation of models for testing ESS business models in the Netherlands and worldwide.

Article in Nature Sustainability: Economic development and converging household carbon footprints in China | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:30 March 2020

There are substantial differences in carbon footprints across households. This study applied an environmentally extended multiregional input–output approach to estimate household carbon footprints for 12 different income groups of China’s 30 regions. Subsequently, carbon footprint Gini coefficients were calculated to measure carbon inequality for households across provinces. We found that the top 5% of income earners were responsible for 17% of the national household carbon footprint in 2012, while the bottom half of income earners caused only 25%. Carbon inequality declined with economic growth in China across space and time in two ways: first, carbon footprints showed greater convergence in the wealthier coastal regions than in the poorer inland regions; second, China’s national carbon footprint Gini coefficients declined from 0.44 in 2007 to 0.37 in 2012. We argue that economic growth not only increases income levels but also contributes to an overall reduction in carbon inequality in China.

Article in Environmental Science and Technology: Tension of agricultural land and water use in China’s trade: Tele-connections, hidden drivers and potential solutions | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:23 March 2020

Interregional trade can potentially extend the management of scarce resources beyond a region’s territory along supply chains. Here we combined the multi-regional input-output model with structural decomposition analysis to reveal the distant connections of agricultural land and water use as well as the drivers behind their variations in China. Our results show that trade-embodied agricultural land use increase by 2.3-fold and 2.5-fold for virtual agricultural water use flows from 2002 to 2012. The water-starved northern China with abundant agricultural land is the main exporter of virtual (also called trade-embodied) agricultural land and water. Moreover, the role of the virtual water use importers and exporters were determined by the availability of land, rather than water resources. Based on scenario analysis, we found that if agricultural water use efficiency of north China reached the world’s top-level but agricultural land use efficiency remained unchanged, the virtual water flows would be reduced by 32% and only water resources, not agricultural land, would be able to sustain future economic development. Our findings may provide significant information for potential solutions to China’s regional water shortage from a land-water nexus perspective.

Article in Science of The Total Environment: Decline of net SO2 emission intensity in China's thermal power generation: Decomposition and attribution analysis | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:16 March 2020

Thermal power generation is the main electricity source of China, but also contributes the largest share of air pollutants in the country. Because of China's considerable efforts in pollution control, one measure of the most important source of air pollution net SO2 emission intensity (NSEI) of thermal power generation has dropped significantly since 2006. Understanding the reasons behind the decline could help further explore the solution-space for deeper mitigation targets. This study combines multiplicative LMDI with attribution analysis to decompose the decline in national NSEI into four factors (i.e. SO2 treatment or end-of-pipe approaches; SO2 emission factor of coal and coal intensity, which both account for cleaner production measures; and geographical structure effects) for 30 regions. Our results show that end-of-pipe technologies remained the primary way to control air pollution in China. In addition, cleaner production efforts contributed to SO2 mitigation. Attribution results at the province level show that northern provinces increased their efforts in SO2 treatment and reducing coal intensity, while southern provinces have done more on reducing the SO2 intensity of coal. Provinces were classified into four categories (i.e. leading regions, end-of-pipe dependent regions, process-dependent regions and lagging regions) according to their performance in terms of end-of-pipe treatment and cleaner production, to help them choose targeted policy methods.

Article in Journal of Cleaner Production: The GHG emissions and economic performance of the Colombian palm oil sector; current status and long-term perspectives | Nidia Ramirez Contreras
Posted on:16 March 2020

Increasing oil palm plantations, both for obtaining crude palm oil (CPO) and for the production of biobased products, have generated growing concern about the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the environment. Colombia has the potential to produce sustainable biobased products from oil palm. Nevertheless, national GHG emissions have not yet been reported by this sector. Achieving the collection of the total primary data from the oil palm sector, in Colombia, entails a tremendous challenge. Notwithstanding, for this study, the data collection of 70% of the production of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) was achieved. Therefore, current situation of CPO production in Colombia is analyzed, including 1) GHG emissions calculation, 2) net energy ratio (NER), and 3) economic performance. Moreover, the analysis includes two future scenarios, where the CPO production chain is optimized to reduce GHG emissions. Future scenario A produces biodiesel (BD), biogas, cogeneration, and compost; while future scenario B produces BD, biogas, cogeneration, and pellets. The methodology, for all the scenarios, includes life-cycle assessment and economic analysis evaluation. The results show a significant potential for improving the current palm oil production, including a 55% reduction in GHG emissions. The impact of land-use change must be mitigated to reduce GHG emissions. Therefore, a sustainable oil palm expansion should be in areas with low carbon stock or areas suitable/available to the crop (e.g., cropland, pastureland). Avoiding the deforestation of natural forests is required. Besides, crop yield should be increased to minimize the land use, using biomass to produce biobased products, and capture biogas to reduce methane emissions. In the biodiesel production life-cycle, the NER analysis shows the fossil energy consumed is lower than the renewable energy produced. Regarding the economic performance, it shows that in an optimized production chain, the capital expenditure and operational expenditure will decrease by approximately 20%.

Fallout from coronavirus outbreak triggers 25% decrease in China's carbon emissions |CBC interview with Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:03 March 2020

The entanglement of economic activity and carbon emissions is one of the most vexing aspects of climate change mitigation. For years, experts have debated how to separate growth from carbon emissions, a concept known as de-coupling. "The economy grows, the emissions grow, unless we have decoupling," said Hubacek, whose research has shown that reducing carbon emissions in one country often results in a shift of carbon-intensive production to another country.

Article in Scientific Data: Chine CO2 emissions accounts 2016-2017 | Yuli Shan and Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:13 February 2020

China’s economic development, energy consumption and associated emissions have entered a “new normal” stage1 afer a period of rapid development. Economic growth has slowed slightly in recent few years, while more attention has been paid to the optimization and upgrade of economic structures and drivers. Even though China’s emissions have plateaued in 2013 ref. 2 , it is still the world’s leading energy consumer and CO2 emitter, accounting for approximately 30% of global emissions3 . Afer the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, China is playing an increasingly important role in global climate change mitigation and emission reduction and has set a series of reduction targets, such as peaking its emissions by 2030 ref. 4 and reducing emission intensity by 60%–65% compared with 2005 ref. 5 . A series of policies, such as those targeting energy structure optimization and renewable energy development, have been implemented and achieved signifcant results6 . Renewable and sustainable energy consumption (i.e. primary electricity from hydro power and solar) as well as energy from nuclear power have rapidly increased from 109 million tonnes of standard coal equivalent (tce) (or 3.7% of the total energy consumption) in 2007 to 295 million tce (or 7.1%) in 2017.

Article in Energy: How does the interplay between resource availability, intersectoral competition and reliability affect a low-carbon power generation mix in Brazil for 2050?
Posted on:11 February 2020

Increasing penetration of solar and wind energy can reduce the reliability of power generation systems. This can be mitigated by e.g.; low-carbon dispatchable hydropower and baseload biomass power plants. However, long-term supply potential for those sources is often uncertain, and biomass can also be used for biofuel production. The purpose of this study is to assess the interplay between uncertain supply potential of biomass and hydropower, intersectoral competition and reliability on a low carbon power system for 2050, with Brazil as case study, using a soft-link between an energy model and a power system model. Hydropower acts as a balancing agent for solar and wind energy, even under lower hydropower supply potential. When less biomass is available, low carbon transportation is met more with electric cars instead of ethanol cars, leading to an increase in electric load for charging their batteries. The charging strategy determines whether peak load increases substantially; after commuting, or lowers; in off-peak hours. This shows the importance of using a soft-link between the high temporal resolution power system model to assess the reliability, and a least cost-optimization model to assess the interplay between resource availability and intersectoral competition of low-carbon power systems.

Article in Nature communications: Physical and virtual carbon metabolism of global cities | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:10 January 2020

Urban activities have profound and lasting effects on the global carbon balance. Here we develop a consistent metabolic approach that combines two complementary carbon accounts, the physical carbon balance and the fossil fuel-derived gaseous carbon footprint, to track carbon coming into, being added to urban stocks, and eventually leaving the city. We find that over 88% of the physical carbon in 16 global cities is imported from outside their urban boundaries, and this outsourcing of carbon is notably amplified by virtual emissions from upstream activities that contribute 33–68% to their total carbon inflows. While 13–33% of the carbon appropriated by cities is immediately combusted and released as CO2, between 8 and 24% is stored in durable household goods or becomes part of other urban stocks. Inventorying carbon consumed and stored for urban metabolism should be given more credit for the role it can play in stabilizing future global climate.

Article in Applied Energy: Urban carbon footprints across scale: Important consideration for choosing system boundaries | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:10 January 2020

Cities dominate global anthropogenic carbon emissions. Here, we develop an approach to interpret carbon footprints of cities by focusing on their system boundaries, double counting recognition, spatial paths and policy sensitivities. Using four megacities in China as a case study, we quantify and map urban carbon footprints from various accounting perspectives: territorial carbon emissions, community-wide infrastructure carbon footprint, consumption-based carbon footprint, wider production carbon footprint, and full-scope carbon footprint. We find that the megacities’ infrastructure carbon footprints are dominated by electricity-related emissions, whereas their consumption-based carbon footprints are significantly impacted by imports of both electricity and other products and services. Over 55% of the full-scope carbon footprints (sums of all three scopes) of Beijing and Shanghai can be attributed to upstream emissions, while in Chongqing and Tianjin territorial emissions are more important. Key urban infrastructure contributes over 70% to the total carbon emissions in import supply chains, determining the spatial paths and the carbon intensities of imports for these megacities. The main destinations of outsourced carbon emissions across the country from the megacities are found to be similar due to market domination of bulk suppliers of infrastructure-related and other carbon-intensive products. In addition, double counting of certain footprint indicators is considered small in this case, but could be amplified with increasing number of cities being assessed.

Cum laude for PhD student Herib Blanco Reaño
Posted on:09 January 2020

On Friday, December 20 2019, Herib Blanco Reaño successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled Hydrogen potential in the future EU energy system. A multi-sectoral, multi-model approach. He received his doctorate degree 'cum laude'. A big congratulations on behalf of all IVEM colleagues. Herib conducted his research at the Center for Energy and Environmental Sciences - IVEM of the University of Groningen, the Joint Research Center, part of the European Commission, in Petten and at the International Energy Agenda in Paris, France.

Article in Nature Sustainability: Cash transfers for pro-poor carbon taxes in Latin America and the Caribbean | Klaus Hubacek
Posted on:07 October 2019

Carbon taxes are advocated as efficient fiscal and environmental policy tools, but they have proven difficult to implement. One reason is that carbon taxes can aggravate poverty by increasing prices of basic goods and services such as food, heating and commuting. Meanwhile, cash transfer programmes have been established as some of the most efficient poverty-reducing policies used in developing countries. We quantify how governments could mitigate negative social consequences of carbon taxes by expanding the beneficiary base or the amounts disbursed with existing cash transfer programmes. We focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that has pioneered cash transfer programmes, aspires to contribute to climate mitigation and faces inequality. We find that 30% of carbon revenues could suffice to compensate poor and vulnerable households on average, leaving 70% to fund other political priorities. We also quantify trade-offs for governments choosing who and how much to compensate.