The carbon footprint (CF) is a measure for quantifying the impact of the activities of individuals, organisations, products or territories on climate change. The carbon footprint has become an important indicator in the public debate on climate change, attracting the attention of consumers, businesses, governments and institutions concerned about the impact of their activities on the environment, and it also constitutes a carbon management tool.


It measures the quantity of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted to the atmosphere by human activities in a determined time period.


It is a quantitative indicator that reflects the impact that people, organisations, products, events, territories, etc. have on climate change.

Carbon Footprint and Cities

Currently more than half of the world population lives in cities, where between 60 and 80% of global GHG emissions are produced. Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest urbanisation rate on the planet.

Thanks to the rising population, the pressure on natural resources also increases, together with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Key urban sectors such as industry, transport, water and sanitation, and waste management, represent significant emission sources and hence also offer opportunities for reductions, for example through energy efficiency measures or renewable energy projects, etc., which often also offer socio-economic benefits as well as contributing to improving environmental management.


Many cities in the region and in the world, such as La Paz, Quito, Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles, amongst others, have worked on assessing their emissions inventories as a first step to establishing emissions reductions programmes or strategies.

Across the world, there are many initiatives designed to incorporate cities into low carbon development, including The Global Cities Covenant on Climate - "The Mexico City Pact", The Covenant of Mayors, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Global City Indicators Facility, the Cities Alliance, amongst others.


Several methodologies are available for calculating carbon footprints, and they can be categorised according to the approach they take. The City Footprints Project bases its carbon footprint assessment methodologies on the following tools:



Local governments

- Greenhouse Gases Protocol (GHG Protocol)
- ISO 14064:1 Greenhouse Gases



- Global Protocol for Community-scale
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC)

  • Scope 1 – Direct

  • All the direct emissions from sources within the established city limits.

  • Scope 2 – Indirect emissions

  • Indirect emissions resulting from energy generated outside the established city limits as a consequence of the consumption/use of grid electricity.

  • Scope 3 – Indirect emissions

  • All the indirect emissions that occur outside the city limits as a result of activities carried out within the city limits, as well as the emissions that occur in between cities from the exchange of goods and services.