Christopher Kennedy

Christopher Kennedy

Professor and Chair

MASc, Ph.D., P.Eng.

Contact Information

ECS, Room 304


I apply principles of Industrial Ecology to challenges of developing sustainable cities and global infrastructure systems.  Much of my work has involved the study of urban metabolism – the energy and material flows through cities – which underlies greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of cites. I also draw upon qualifications in Civil Engineering, Economics and Business to advise on policies and planning for sustainable infrastructure. Clients have included the governments of: Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the UK, as well as the World Bank, Ontario Ministry of Finance, and others.  In 2011/12, I was seconded to the OECD in Paris, to work on Cities, Green Growth and Policies for Encouraging Investment in Low Carbon Infrastructure. I have been a visiting professor at Oxford University and ETH Zürich. I previously served as President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. I am also a Senior Fellow at the Global Cities Institute  and author of The Evolution of Great World Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth.


Electric Cities

Building on studies of the metabolism of megacities (below) we are examining the potential for wide-scale electrification of cities, using low-carbon power sources. This work has identified a key threshold for the carbon intensity of electricity supply which supports low carbon growth (published in Nature Climate Change  and reported by 13 news outlets including Globe & Mail and CBC Radio).

Global Infrastructure

I continue to work on planning and investment strategies for the global development of sustainable infrastructure systems.  This builds on work first developed at the OECD (below) that was published in Energy Policy and recently applied to China.  Related to this research, I co-authored an article in Nature on peak waste.


Metabolism of Megacities

In partnership with the Enel Foundation, I led a group of 28 researchers in a study of the energy and material flows of the world’s 27 megacities. The sheer magnitude of these flows (e.g., 9% of global electricity, 10% of gasoline, 13% of solid waste) showed the importance of megacities in addressing global environmental challenges. Our work was published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences and picked up by several media outlets including: Quartz, The Atlantic, The Guardian, NBC News, CNBC, Discovery News, Le Scienze, and the BBC’s Newsday.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities

Building upon studies of urban metabolism, I led a group of international scholars to investigate how and why greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions differ between global cities. Our work was published in Environmental Science & Technology  and Energy Policy  and was featured in the Economist magazine. Our methodology was adopted by the World Bank, UNEP and UN-Habitat as a standard approach for conducting city-wide GHG inventories. Subsequently we published an article on strategies for reducing GHG emission from cities in Nature Climate Change.

Mobilising Investment in Low Carbon, Climate Resilient Infrastructure

In 2011-12, I was seconded to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. At OECD, I primarily supported the Working Party on Climate, Investment and Development (which has delegates from the 34 OECD countries, including Canada). I led one paper and contributed to a second, both concerned with policies for encouraging increased private sector investment in low carbon, climate resilient infrastructure . My work was incorporated into OECD material for the Mayors & Ministers meeting (Chicago), Clean Energy Ministerial (Paris), and the Rio +20 Environment conference.

Getting to Carbon Neutral: A Guide for Canadian Municipalities

In 2010, the Sustainable Infrastructure Research group produced a quantitative guidebook to help Canadian municipalities understand and reduce their greenhouse emissions. The Guide was produced in collaboration with Toronto Region Conservation and partner municipalities in the Greater Toronto Region. A chapter of the book on best practices was published by the World Bank.

Urban Metabolism

Over several years I conducted research on urban metabolism including the first comparison of worldwide city metabolism. I have helped several organizations develop programs to use urban metabolism for environmental reporting, including Toronto Region Conservation, The World Bank, and UCLA / California Energy Commission.

Sustainable Infrastructure and Neighbourhoods

A variety of earlier project included work on green buildings, neighbourhood metabolism, urban water systems and sustainable urban transportation, using methods of life cycle assessment and material flow analysis.