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In Northwest China, quantifying city-level CO2 emissions is fundamental to CO2 alleviation but encounters difficulties in data availability and quality. Further, structuring city-level emissions could be conductive to CO2 reduction. This study applies a practical methodology to 16 northwestern Chinese cities to grasp their historical trajectories of CO2 emissions. Then, structuring CO2 emissions is explored in terms of industrial structure, energy mix and urban-rural disparities for 8 northwestern Chinese cities. Results show that: (1) for 16 cities (2010–2015), capital and industrial cities generated most emissions. Meanwhile, CO2 emissions were mostly incompatible with CO2 intensity, but consistent with CO2 per capita; (2) for 8 cities (2006–2015), energy producing sectors, heavy manufacturing sectors, and coal remained major drivers of emissions. Then, the interconnection between industrial structure and energy mix exerted temporally varying impacts on emissions from energy producing sectors and heavy manufacturing sectors. Besides, urban gas consumption and rural coal use continued affecting most of household consumption emissions and household consumption emissions per capita. Moreover, the interplay between emissions and population was changed when emissions by energy type were decomposed among urban and rural households; and (3) uncertainty results averagely fall in the range of −39% to 6%. Finally, implications for CO2 reduction and future work are proposed.
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