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Determinants for decoupling economic growth from carbon dioxide emissions in China


Understanding how CO2 emissions and economic growth can be decoupled and what drives this relationship is key to achieving long-term sustainable development. Current methods to decompose emissions and growth usually follow an approach known as the index decomposition method, which essentially decomposes changes in the Tapio decoupling elastic index (TDEI), a commonly used index describing the decoupling relationship, into different factors. However, in this method, it is difficult to separate technical efficiency from behavioral effects. To address this problem, we developed a novel decomposition approach by combining the TDEI with production-theoretical decomposition analysis. We then investigated the determinants for decoupling economic growth from CO2 emissions in China from 2011 to 2016. The results showed that (1) the overall decoupling states changed for different consecutive years in this period; (2) the decoupling states between economic growth and potential carbon factor, potential energy intensity, and energy usage technological change were negative factors while the decoupling states between economic growth and per capita GDP, population scale, CO2 emission technological change, technical efficiencies of energy usage, and CO2 emission were positive factors for the overall decoupling state; and (3) the differences in decoupling states were associated with the driving factors for changes in CO2 emissions. The variations in the decoupling states may partially be attributed to industrial structure, the efficiency of energy usage in provinces, and the “new normal” period in which the economic growth slows down. We advise fostering of diversified environment-friendly consumption hotspots.

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This work was supported by the National Key Natural Science Foundation of China [grant no. 71934001]; the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant nos. 71471001, 41771568, 71533004, 71503001]; the National Key Research and Development Program of China [grant no. 2016YFA0602500]; Sichuan Province Social Science High Level Research Team Building Program; and the Program for Major Projects in Philosophy and Social Science Research under China’s Ministry of Education [grant number 14JZD031].

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Correspondence to Malin Song.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Mitigation and adaptation strategies under uncertainties in East Asia

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Chen, J., Xu, C. & Song, M. Determinants for decoupling economic growth from carbon dioxide emissions in China. Reg Environ Change 20, 11 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-020-01605-w

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  • Decoupling analysis
  • CO2 emission
  • Economic growth
  • Production-theoretical decomposition analysis