Changing Lifestyles Towards a Low Carbon Economy: An IPAT Analysis for China

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Hubacek, K.; Feng, K.; Chen, B. Changing Lifestyles Towards a Low Carbon Economy: An IPAT Analysis for China. Energies 2012, 5, 22-31.


China has achieved notable success in developing its economy with approximate 10 percent average annual GDP growth over the last two decades. At the same time, energy consumption and CO2 emissions almost doubled every five years, which led China to be the world top emitter in 2007. In response, China’s government has put forward a carbon mitigation target of 40%–45% reduction of CO2 emission intensity by 2020. To better understand the potential for success or failure of such a policy, it is essential to assess different driving forces such as population, lifestyle and technology and their associated CO2 emissions. This study confirms that increase of affluence has been the main driving force for China’s CO2 emissions since the late 1970s, which outweighs reductions achieved through technical progress. Meanwhile, the contribution of population growth to CO2 emissions was relatively small. We also found a huge disparity between urban and rural households in terms of changes of lifestyle and consumption patterns. Lifestyles in urban China are beginning to resemble Western lifestyles, and approaching their level of CO2 emissions. Therefore, in addition to the apparent inefficiencies in terms of production technologies there is also a lot of room for improvement on the consumption side especially in interaction of current infrastructure investments and future consumption.