Rigorous classification and carbon accounting principles for low and Zero Carbon Cities
A large number of communities, new developments, and regions aim to lower their carbon footprint and aspire to become "zero carbon" or "Carbon Neutral." Yet there are neither clear definitions for the scope of emissions that such a label would address on an urban scale, nor is there a process for qualifying the carbon reduction claims. This paper addresses the question of how to define a zero carbon, Low Carbon, or Carbon Neutral urban development by proposing hierarchical emissions categories with three levels: Internal Emissions based on the geographical boundary, external emissions directly caused by core municipal activities, and internal or external emissions due to non-core activities. Each level implies a different carbon management strategy (eliminating, balancing, and minimizing, respectively) needed to meet a Net Zero Carbon designation. The trade-offs, implications, and difficulties of implementing carbon debt accounting based upon these definitions are further analyzed.
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