Authors: Klaus Hubacek, Xiangjie Chen, Kuishuang Feng, Thomas Wiedmann, Yuli Shan.
Journal: Advances in Applied Energy, Volume 4, 19 November 2021, 100074.
Decoupling economic growth from resource use and emissions is a precondition to stay within planetary boundaries. A number of countries have achieved a reduction in their production-based emissions in the past decade. However, the decline in PBE has often been achieved via outsourcing of emissions to other countries, which may even lead to higher emissions globally. Therefore, a consumption-based perspective that accounts for a country's emissions along global supply chains should also be employed when investigating progress in decoupling. Here we investigate the progress countries made in reducing their production-based and consumption-based emissions despite growth in gross domestic product (GDP). We found that 32 out of 116 countries (mainly developed ones) achieved absolute decoupling between GDP and production-based emissions in recent years (2015–2018), and 23 countries achieved absolute decoupling between GDP and consumption-based emissions. 14 countries have decoupled GDP growth from both production- and consumption-based emissions. Even countries that have achieved absolute decoupling are still adding emissions to the atmosphere thus showing the limits of ‘green growth’ and the growth paradigm. We also observed that decoupling can be temporary, and decoupled countries may switch back to increasing emissions, which means that continuous efforts are needed to maintain decoupling. An analysis of driving factors shows that whether a country can achieve decoupling mainly depends on reducing emission intensity along domestic and import supply chains. This highlights the importance of decarbonizing supply chains and international collaboration in controlling emissions.
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