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Chinese cities exhibit varying degrees of decoupling of economic growth and CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2015

12 January 2021

Authors: Yuli Shan, Shuai Fang, Bofeng Cai, Ya Zhou, Dong Li, Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek.

Journal: One Earth.


Cities, contributing more than 75% of global carbon emissions, are at the heart of climate change mitigation. Given cities’ heterogeneity, they need specific low-carbon roadmaps instead of one-size-fits-all approaches. Here, we present the most detailed and up to date CO2 emission accounts for 294 cities in China and examine the extent to which their economic growth was decoupled from emissions. Results show that from 2005 to 2015, only 11% of cities exhibited strong decoupling; whereas 65.6% showed weak decoupling and 23.4% no decoupling. We attribute the economic-emission decoupling in cities to several socioeconomic factors (i.e., structure and size of the economy, emission intensity, and population size) and find that the decline in emission intensity via improvement in production and carbon efficiency (e.g., decarbonizing the energy mix via building a renewable energy system) is the most important one. The experience and status quo of carbon emissions and emission-GDP decoupling in Chinese cities may have implications for other developing economies to design carbon-decoupled development pathways.

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Last modified:01 August 2022 3.27 p.m.

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