As a greater fraction of the world’s residents moves to cities, urban-scale policies will play a critical role in mitigating global climate change. Recognizing this role, many city governments around the world are developing greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and action plans.

Despite their ambition, however, these jurisdictions often lack the capability to prioritize actions based on the scale of GHG abatement potential and to use mitigation assessment to set and a plan on how to meet (often ambitious) emissions targets. This paper helps to address these gaps by (a) developing a general typology of urban-scale emission-reduction technologies and practices, (b) identifying policies and measures that can support their adoption, (c) assessing their relative abatement potential in the nearer (2020) and longer (2050) term and (d) examining the relative degree of influence that urban jurisdictions can wield with respect to realizing these potentials.

Local jurisdictions can use this typology as an initial screening tool to identify technologies and practices with higher GHG abatement potential, especially those in the transport and buildings sectors, as well as policies and measures that may support them. Researchers can use the results to inform priorities for further development of standardized analytical methods, toolkits and indicators.

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