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Embodied carbon emissions of aluminum-containing commodities in international trade: China’s perspective

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In recent years, global climate change has become an increasingly serious problem. Developing countries have assumed excessive responsibilities for carbon emissions under the principle of producer responsibility. A system that considers material flows to establish the responsibility for carbon emissions more accurately and fairly was proposed. In this study, the embodied carbon emissions (ECEs) of aluminum-containing commodities (ACC) in China’s international trade from 2008 to 2017 were analyzed via material flow analysis. The carbon emission coefficients of China’s imported and exported ACC were calculated and discussed. The main conclusions were as follows: (1)The annual imported and exported aluminum in ACC showed a fluctuating growth from 2008 to 2017. Overall, China imported a large amount of alumina and exports a large amount of aluminum-containing end products (ACEP) and semi-products (SP). (2) The imported and exported ECEs of ACC were mainly due to ACEP, which account for 57% and 68% of the imported and exported ECEs of ACC, respectively. (3) The ECEs of ACEP in international trade were mainly associated with vehicles, manufacturing equipment, and aircraft. (4) The share of exported and net exported ACC’s ECEs in domestic carbon emissions (calculated using the principle of producer responsibility) also increased from 1.3 and 0.9% to 2.8 and 1.7%. In addition, a more accurate share of international carbon emission responsibility was discussed, and policy recommendations to reduce carbon emissions and actively respond to global climate change were provided.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available in the Supplementary materials.



Material flow analysis


Embodied carbon emissions


Aluminum-containing commodities


Aluminum-containing end products


Unwrought aluminum




Aluminum old scraps


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This study was financially supported by the Project in China National key R & D plan (Project number: 2018YFB1502804) and the Research Program of Shenzhen S&T Innovation Committee (Project number: JCYJ20170412105839839 and JCYJ20190808123013260).

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Authors and Affiliations



QFL: methodology, investigation, data curation, writing—original draft; HBD: conceptualization, methodology, resources, supervision; TJL: investigation, visualization, writing—review and editing; YJZ: writing—review and editing; YC: validation; RYZ: writing—review and editing.

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Correspondence to Huabo Duan or Ying Chen.

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Supplementary materials are available in the online version of the paper. Reprints and permissions information is available online at Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to HB Duan.

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Li, Q., Duan, H., Li, T. et al. Embodied carbon emissions of aluminum-containing commodities in international trade: China’s perspective. Climatic Change 166, 47 (2021).

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