Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Carbon analytics for net-zero emissions sustainable cities

Consensus on carbon accounting approaches at city-level is lacking and analytic frameworks to systematically link carbon mitigation with the Sustainable Development Goals are limited. A new accounting approach anchored upon key physical provisioning systems can help to address these knowledge gaps and facilitate urban transitions.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Key advances required in urban carbon analysis.


  1. 1.

    Kennedy, C. et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. 43, 7297–7302 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ramaswami, A., Russell, A. G., Culligan, P. J., Sharma, K. R. & Kumar, E. Science 352, 940–943 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Chavez, A. & Ramaswami, A. Energy Policy 54, 376–384 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Wiedmann, T. et al. J. Ind. Ecol. (2020).

  5. 5.

    Gurney, K. R. et al. Nat. Commun. 12, 553 (2021).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Jones, C. M. & Kammen, D. M. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 4088–4095 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Mitchell, L. E. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 2912–2917 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Zheng, B. et al. Sci. Adv. 6, eabd4998 (2020).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Hillman, T. & Ramaswami, A. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44, 1902–1910 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    O’Neill, D. W., Fanning, A. L., Lamb, W. F. & Steinberger, J. K. Nat. Sustain. 1, 88–95 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Nangini, C. et al. Sci. Data 6, 180280 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Erickson, P. & Morgenstern, T. Carbon Manag. 7, 313–316 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Román, M. O. et al. PLoS ONE 14, e0218883 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Liu, Z. et al. Nat. Commun. 11, 5172 (2020).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Mahtta, R., Mahendra, A. & Seto, K. C. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 124077 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Choi, P. M. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 21864–21873 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Wachs, L. & Singh, S. J. Econ. Struct. 7, 26 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    IRP Global Resources Outlook 2019: Natural Resources for the Future We Want (United Nations Environment Programme, 2019).

  19. 19.

    Ramaswami, A. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 7, 736–742 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Tong, K., Nagpure, A. S. & Ramaswami, A. Sci Data. 8, 104 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This Comment originated from a science-policy workshop held in June 2019, hosted by the Global Carbon Project and the US National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Sustainable Healthy Cities Network (NSF no. 1444745).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anu Ramaswami.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Logan Mitchell and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ramaswami, A., Tong, K., Canadell, J.G. et al. Carbon analytics for net-zero emissions sustainable cities. Nat Sustain 4, 460–463 (2021).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing