Haberl, H., Löw, M., Perez-Laborda, A., Matej, S., Plank, B., Wiedenhofer, D., Creutzig, F., Erb, K.-H., Duro, J.A.

Built structures influence patterns of energy demand and CO2 emissions across countries

in Nature Communications, 03.07.2023

Peer Review , Land Use, Infrastructure and Transport

Built structures, i.e. the patterns of settlements and transport infrastructures, are known to influence per-capita energy demand and CO2 emissions at the urban level. At the national level, the role of built structures is seldom considered due to poor data availability. Instead, other potential determinants of energy demand and CO2 emissions, primarily GDP, are more frequently assessed. We present a set of national-level indicators to characterize patterns of built structures. We quantify these indicators for 113 countries and statistically analyze the results along with final energy use and territorial CO2 emissions, as well as factors commonly included in national-level analyses of determinants of energy use and emissions. We find that these indicators are about equally important for predicting energy demand and CO2 emissions as GDP and other conventional factors. The area of built-up land per capita is the most important predictor, second only to the effect of GDP.