Demand-driven air pollutant emissions for a fast-developing region in China

Jiamin Ou, Jing Meng, Junyu Zheng, Zhifu Mi, Yahui Bian, Xiang Yu, Jingru Liu, Dabo Guan

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Guangdong is one of many fast-developing regions in China that are confronting the challenges of air pollution mitigation and sustainable economic development. Previous studies have focused on the characterization of production-based emissions to formulate control strategies, but the drivers of emission growth and pattern changes from the consumption side have rarely been explored. In this study, we used environmentally extended input-output analysis with well-established production-based emission inventories to develop a consumption-based emission inventory for seven pollutants in the years 2007 and 2012. The results showed that the demands of construction, transport and other services dominated the emissions from the consumption perspective, followed by electric power and some machinery and light industries. The varying trends of air pollutants from 2007 to 2012 were associated with production-based control measures and changes in economic structure and trading patterns. From the consumption perspective, due to the stringent control of SO2 in power plants and key industries, the SO2 emissions underwent substantial declines, while the less controlled PM10, PM2.5, VOC and CO emissions continued to grow. The contributions of the cleaner (that is, with lower emission intensity) service sectors (third-sector industries, excluding transport, storage and post) to all seven pollutants increased. This increase could be a consequence of the expansion of the service sector in Guangdong; in this five-year period, the service sector grew by 41% in terms of its contributions to Guangdong's gross domestic product. Meanwhile, exports accounted for more than half of the emissions, but their share had started to decrease for most pollutants except VOC and CO. The results suggest that Guangdong moved towards a cleaner production and consumption pathway. The transformation of the industrial structure and increase in of urban demand should help to further reduce emissions while maintaining economic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-142
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date11 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2017


  • Air pollution
  • China
  • Consumption-based
  • Emission inventory
  • Input-output
  • Production-based

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