Economic development and converging household carbon footprints in China

Mi, Z., Zheng, J., Meng, J., Ou, J., Hubacek, K., Liu, Z., Coffman, DM., Stern, N., Liang, S. & Wei, Y-M., 2020, In : Nature sustainability. 3, p. 529–537 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  • Zhifu Mi
  • Jiali Zheng
  • Jing Meng
  • Jiamin Ou
  • Klaus Hubacek
  • Zhu Liu
  • D'Maris Coffman
  • Nicholas Stern
  • Sai Liang
  • Yi-Ming Wei

There are substantial differences in carbon footprints across households. This study applied an environmentally extended multiregional input-output approach to estimate household carbon footprints for 12 different income groups of China's 30 regions. Subsequently, carbon footprint Gini coefficients were calculated to measure carbon inequality for households across provinces. We found that the top 5% of income earners were responsible for 17% of the national household carbon footprint in 2012, while the bottom half of income earners caused only 25%. Carbon inequality declined with economic growth in China across space and time in two ways: first, carbon footprints showed greater convergence in the wealthier coastal regions than in the poorer inland regions; second, China's national carbon footprint Gini coefficients declined from 0.44 in 2007 to 0.37 in 2012. We argue that economic growth not only increases income levels but also contributes to an overall reduction in carbon inequality in China.

Carbon use often tracks economic development. This study finds the top 5% of Chinese households by income have 17% of the nation's carbon 'footprint' in 2012 but that such inequality declined with China's economic growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529–537
Number of pages12
JournalNature sustainability
Early online date30-Mar-2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020



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