A spatial typology of human settlements and their CO2 emissions in England


Case studies demonstrate that urban greenhouse gas emissions are driven by socio-economic, climatic and urban-form specific characteristics. But neither the interdependence between attributes nor their place-specific context has been well understood. In this paper, we develop a nested typology of human settlements in England, containing both urban and rural environments, that is based on local drivers of emissions from direct energy use in nearly 7000 local areas. We reject the standard hypothesis that settlements obey a global linear model explaining emissions. The emissions of human settlement types are characterized by unique, place-specific combinations of emission drivers. We find that density and income are dominant classifiers of local carbon dioxide emissions. However, their specific impacts are particular to human settlement types as characterized by the place-specific combination of income, household size, and local climate, which are themselves spatially contextualized. Our typology strongly correlates with the geographic distribution of lifestyles. Average household carbon dioxide emissions are highest for very high income households (top 3%) living in low-density settlement areas with large houses, mostly concentrated in outer suburbs. Our results provide a first step towards enabling decision makers to go beyond one-size-fits-all approaches but instead to apply appropriate and specific mitigating measures for each type of human settlement. In turn, successful strategies could be transferred between similar types of human settlements.

Global Environmental Change, (34), pp. 13–21, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.06.001