Four system boundaries for carbon accounts

Zhu Liu, Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek, Sai Liang, Laura Diaz Anadon, Chao Zhang, Dabo Guan

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Knowing the carbon emission baseline of a region is a precondition for any mitigation effort, but the baselines are highly dependent on the system boundaries for which they are calculated. On the basis of sectoral energy statistics and a nested provincial and global multi-regional input-output model, we calculate and compare four different system boundaries for China's 30 provinces and major cities. The results demonstrate significant differences in the level of emissions for the different system boundaries. Moreover, the associated emissions with each system boundary varies with the regional development level, i.e. richer areas outsource more emissions to other areas, or in other words boundary 4 emissions are higher than boundary 1 emissions for rich areas and vice versa for poor areas. Given these significant differences it is important to be aware of the implications the choice of an accounting system might have on outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-125
JournalEcological Modelling
Early online date27 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2015


  • carbon emissions
  • Carbon footprint
  • Consumption-based emission
  • Multi-regional input-output analysis
  • Embodied emissions
  • China

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