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Outsourcing CO2 within China.

  • Author(s): Feng, Kuishuang
  • Davis, Steven J
  • Sun, Laixiang
  • Li, Xin
  • Guan, Dabo
  • Liu, Weidong
  • Liu, Zhu
  • Hubacek, Klaus
  • et al.
Abstract

Recent studies have shown that the high standard of living enjoyed by people in the richest countries often comes at the expense of CO2 emissions produced with technologies of low efficiency in less affluent, developing countries. Less apparent is that this relationship between developed and developing can exist within a single country's borders, with rich regions consuming and exporting high-value goods and services that depend upon production of low-cost and emission-intensive goods and services from poorer regions in the same country. As the world's largest emitter of CO2, China is a prominent and important example, struggling to balance rapid economic growth and environmental sustainability across provinces that are in very different stages of development. In this study, we track CO2 emissions embodied in products traded among Chinese provinces and internationally. We find that 57% of China's emissions are related to goods that are consumed outside of the province where they are produced. For instance, up to 80% of the emissions related to goods consumed in the highly developed coastal provinces are imported from less developed provinces in central and western China where many low-value-added but high-carbon-intensive goods are produced. Without policy attention to this sort of interprovincial carbon leakage, the less developed provinces will struggle to meet their emissions intensity targets, whereas the more developed provinces might achieve their own targets by further outsourcing. Consumption-based accounting of emissions can thus inform effective and equitable climate policy within China.

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