What would dense atmospheric observation networks bring to the quantification of city CO2 emissions?
Abstract. Cities currently covering only a very small portion ( < 3 %) of the world's land surface directly release to the atmosphere about 44 % of global energy-related CO2, but they are associated with 71–76 % of CO2 emissions from global final energy use. Although many cities have set voluntary climate plans, their CO2 emissions are not evaluated by the monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) procedures that play a key role for market- or policy-based mitigation actions. Here we analyze the potential of a monitoring tool that could support the development of such procedures at the city scale. It is based on an atmospheric inversion method that exploits inventory data and continuous atmospheric CO2 concentration measurements from a network of stations within and around cities to estimate city CO2 emissions. This monitoring tool is configured for the quantification of the total and sectoral CO2 emissions in the Paris metropolitan area (∼ 12 million inhabitants and 11.4 TgC emitted in 2010) during the month of January 2011. Its performances are evaluated in terms of uncertainty reduction based on observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs). They are analyzed as a function of the number of sampling sites (measuring at 25 m a.g.l.) and as a function of the network design. The instruments presently used to measure CO2 concentrations at research stations are expensive (typically ∼ EUR 50 k per sensor), which has limited the few current pilot city networks to around 10 sites. Larger theoretical networks are studied here to assess the potential benefit of hypothetical operational lower-cost sensors. The setup of our inversion system is based on a number of diagnostics and assumptions from previous city-scale inversion experiences with real data. We find that, given our assumptions underlying the configuration of the OSSEs, with 10 stations only the uncertainty for the total city CO2 emission during 1 month is significantly reduced by the inversion by ∼ 42 %. It can be further reduced by extending the network, e.g., from 10 to 70 stations, which is promising for MRV applications in the Paris metropolitan area. With 70 stations, the uncertainties in the inverted emissions are reduced significantly over those obtained using 10 stations: by 32 % for commercial and residential buildings, by 33 % for road transport, by 18 % for the production of energy by power plants, and by 31 % for total emissions. These results indicate that such a high number of stations would be likely required for the monitoring of sectoral emissions in Paris using this observation–model framework. They demonstrate some high potential that atmospheric inversions can contribute to the monitoring and/or the verification of city CO2 emissions (baseline) and CO2 emission reductions (commitments) and the advantage that could be brought by the current developments of lower-cost medium precision (LCMP) sensors.