Carbon positive

The New Language of Carbon, an idea first developed in architect William McDonough’s article, “Carbon Is Not The Enemy[1],” was originally published in the journal Nature.  

Carbon Positive CitiesEdit

McDonough, alongside his Charlottesville-based architecture firm, William McDonough + Partners, utilized the New Language of Carbon to develop a framework for designing Carbon Positive[2] Cities. The concept is also closely related to Breathing Cities, which he presented at the Arctic Circle China Forum in Shanghai in May 2019 and focuses on releasing less carbon and fewer toxic chemicals into the air and instead shifts to integrating renewable energy such as geothermal as a solution to air pollution and climate change.

Implementing a carbon positive framework[3] for cities is one method of combating climate change. The aim is for cities to embrace carbon as an asset in soil, plants and “durable” earthbound forms, while eliminating it as a liability in the atmosphere.

The goal of carbon positive cities is to reduce the liability of atmospheric carbon while also increasing earthbound carbon as an asset; integrate and celebrate urban development [4] as a unified, productive and restorative ecosystem; recognize beneficial uses of carbon for their short and long-term ecological, economic, and social value; optimize the relationships between a city, its local hinterland, and remote territories and envision agriculture as an organizing element of urban form and operations.

Circular Carbon EconomyEdit

At COP25 in Madrid, William McDonough and marine ecologist Carlos Duarte presented the Circular Carbon Economy at an event with the BBVA Foundation.[5][6] The Circular Carbon Economy is based on McDonough’s ideas from Carbon Is Not The Enemy[1] and aims to serve as the framework for developing and organizing effective systems for carbon management.

McDonough used the Circular Carbon Economy to frame discussions at the G20 workshops in March of 2020.[7]


Since Carbon Is Not The Enemy was first published, numerous outlets such as Scientific American[8] and Fast Company[9] have praised it for reframing the conversation around carbon emissions.

Since the first mention of Carbon Positive Cities, several municipalities have used this as an evaluation of their environmental goals. Baoding, China was called the “first ‘carbon positive’ city[10]” by the United Nations. The Liverpool City Council[11] also announced their ambition to be “the world’s first carbon positive city by 2020” by using blockchain technology.[12]

  1. ^ a b McDonough, William (2016-11-17). "Carbon is not the enemy". Nature News. 539 (7629): 349–351. Bibcode:2016Natur.539..349M. doi:10.1038/539349a. PMID 27853228. S2CID 4448028.
  2. ^ Plastrik, Pete (2017-11-08). ""Carbon Positive" Cities?". Life After Carbon. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  3. ^ Anzilotti, Eillie (2018-06-13). "Climate positive, carbon neutral, carbon negative: What do they mean?". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  4. ^ "Energy-smart companies, cities and governments sign up to deliver Net Zero Carbon Buildings". The Climate Group. 2018-09-14. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  5. ^ "BBVA Foundation". FBBVA. Retrieved 2020-10-22.
  6. ^
  7. ^ March 5; Uncategorized, 2020- (2020-03-05). "William McDonough invited to give G20 opening speeches on Circular Carbon Economy". William McDonough. Retrieved 2020-10-22.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ ""Positive Cities" Can Improve Earth as Well as People's Lives". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  9. ^ Peters, Adele (2016-11-14). "William McDonough Wants To Change The Way We Talk About Carbon". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  10. ^ "Baoding, China- The world's first "carbon positive" city .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform". Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  11. ^ Council, Liverpool City. "Climate change strategic framework". Liverpool City Council. Retrieved 2020-08-13.
  12. ^ "Liverpool aims to be world's first climate-positive city with blockchain technology". Archinect. Retrieved 2020-08-13.

New Language of CarbonEdit