An overview of the inequality in China’s carbon intensity 1997–2016: a Theil index decomposition analysis

Abstract

Although China has experienced an overall decline in CO2 emissions intensity from 2009 to 2016, the intensity from one province to another varies considerably. As China seeks to reduce CO2 emissions intensity further, understanding how intensity differs provincially and regionally, as well as why, will be important for developing equitable management strategies. The Kaya-Theil model has been extensively applied to analyze the emission inequality; however, there have been no studies focusing on the inequality in carbon intensity in the different sectors and from different resource types in China. Here, we develop a comprehensive analysis on the inequality in China’s carbon intensity from both sectoral and energy perspectives from 1997 to 2016. The Theil index is decomposed into the within-region inequality and between-region inequality based on four economic development strategies. We used the LMDI decomposition analysis to identify the driving factors of the inequality (GDP share, emission coefficients, energy structure, energy intensity and economic structure). We find that after a decline in the inequality from 2003 to 2009, the inequality in the total carbon intensity increased by 28.4% from 2009 to 2016, mainly from an increase in the inequality from the industry sector (+ 53.1%), construction sector (+ 47.6%) and coal (+ 40.6%). The within-region inequality was the main source of the inequality in the carbon intensity, accounting for more than 60% of the inequality of the total carbon intensity from 2009 to 2016. Further decomposition identified the energy intensity disparity as the key driving factor of the carbon intensity inequality, inducing a 26.5% increase of the inequality from 2009 to 2016. Moreover, our results demonstrate how the structural transformation of energy and economic structure impact the inequality in carbon intensity.

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The authors declare that all data and materials used or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and comply with field standards.

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Acknowledgments

We appreciate the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of our paper. This paper is supported by Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 2019CDSKXYJG0037).

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QT helped in conceptualization, data curation, formal analysis, investigation, methodology, visualization, roles/writing—original draft, writing—review and editing. TZ contributed to conceptualization, supervision, writing—review and editing. RY was involved in conceptualization, resources, supervision, validation, writing—review and editing.

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Correspondence to Rong Yuan.

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Tian, Q., Zhao, T. & Yuan, R. An overview of the inequality in China’s carbon intensity 1997–2016: a Theil index decomposition analysis. Clean Techn Environ Policy (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-021-02050-x

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Keywords

  • Carbon intensity
  • Inequality
  • Theil index
  • Index decomposition analysis
  • China