Lifestyles, technology and CO2 emissions in China: A regional comparative analysis

Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek, Dabo Guan

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194 Citations (Scopus)


With rapid economic development, higher income levels, urbanization and other socio-economic drivers, people's lifestyles in China have changed remarkably over the last 50 years. This paper uses the IPAT model (where I = Impact representing CO2 emissions, P = Population, A = Affluence, and T = emission intensity) to analyze how these main drivers contributed to the growth of CO2 emissions over this time period. Affluence or lifestyle change has been variously recognized as one of the key factors contributing to CO2 emissions. Through comparative analysis of the development of five regions in China, we trace lifestyle changes since the foundation of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 until 2002. We find that household consumption across the five regions follows similar trajectories, driven by changes in income and the increasing availability of goods and services, although significant differences still exist between and within regions due to differential policies in China and different possibilities for social mobility. There are considerable differences between the southeast and northwest and between urban and rural areas. We also found that technological improvements have not been able to fully compensate for the increase of emissions due to population growth and increasing wealth, which is also in line with results from other studies. Finally, this paper emphasizes that developing countries such as China, which is home to 22% of the world population and a growing middle class, and which is on a fast track to modernization, need to ensure that people's lifestyles are changing towards more sustainable ways of living. China has been investing heavily in infrastructure and thus creating the emissions of tomorrow. Thus investing, for example, in public transport and low energy building today will help reduce emissions in the future and will support more sustainable lifestyles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-154
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2009


  • China
  • Climate change
  • Emission intensity
  • Energy
  • IPAT
  • Lifestyle change
  • Sustainable consumption and production

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