Unintended Environmental Consequences and Co-Benefits of Economic Restructuring

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Current economic restructuring policies have ignored unintended environmental consequences and cobenefits, the understanding of which can provide foundations for effective policy decisions for green economy transformation. Using the input-output life cycle assessment model and taking China as an example, we find that household consumption, fixed capital formation, and export are main drivers to China’s environmental impacts. At the product scale, major contributors to environmental impacts vary across different types of impacts. Stimulating the development of seven strategic emerging industries will cause unintended consequences, such as increasing nonferrous metal ore usage, terrestrial acidification, photochemical oxidant formation, human toxicity, and terrestrial ecotoxicity. Limiting the surplus outputs in the construction materials industry and metallurgy industry may only help mitigate some of the environmental impacts caused by China’s regulated pollutants, with little effect on reducing other impacts, such as marine eutrophication, terrestrial acidification, photochemical oxidant formation, and particulate matter formation. However, it will bring cobenefits by simultaneously reducing mineral ore usage, human toxicity, marine ecotoxicity, and terrestrial ecotoxicity. Sustainable materials management and integrated policy modeling are possible ways for policy-making to avoid unintended consequences and effectively utilize cobenefits.

green economy
input-output life cycle assessment
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Environmental Science and Technology
Date Published: 
November 19, 2013
Persistent URL: 
DOI: 10.1021/es402458u
Full Citation: 
Liang, Sai, Ming Xu, Sangwon Suh, Raymond R. Tan. (2013) “Unintended environmental consequences and co-benefits of economic restructuring.” Environmental Science & Technology 47(22): 12894-12902.
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