China’s unprecedented change offers a unique opportunity for uncovering relationships between economic growth and environmental pressure. Here we show the trajectories of China’s environmental pressure and reveal underlying socioeconomic drivers during 1992–2010. Mining and manufacturing industries are the main contributors to increasing environmental pressure from the producer perspective. Changes in urban household consumption, fixed capital formation, and exports are the main drivers from the consumer perspective. While absolute decoupling is not realized, China has in general achieved relative decoupling between economic growth and environmental pressure. China’s decoupling performance has four distinguishable periods, closely aligning with nation-wide major policy adjustments, which indicates significant impact of China’s national socioeconomic policies on its environmental pressure. Material intensity change is the main contributor to the mitigation of environmental pressure, except for ammonia nitrogen, solid wastes, aquatic Cu, and aquatic Zn. Production structure change is the largest contributor to mitigate ammonia nitrogen emissions, and final demand structure change is the largest contributor to mitigate emissions of solid wastes, aquatic Cu, and aquatic Zn. We observe materialization trends for China’s production structure and final demand structure during 2002–2007. Environmental sustainability can only be achieved by timely technology innovation and changes of production structure and consumption pattern.
CSS Publication Number:
Environmental Science & Technology
Liang, S.; Z. Liu, D. Crawford-Brown, Y.-F. Wang, and M. Xu. (2014) “Decoupling analysis and socioeconomic drivers of environmental pressure in China.” Environmental Science & Technology 48(2): 1103-1113.