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Decoupling Analysis of China’s Resource Consumption and Economic Growth over the Period 1998-2008

LU Zhongwu, WANG Heming, YUE Qiang   

  1. SEP Key Laboratory of Eco-Industry, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110819, China;SEP Key Laboratory of Eco-Industry, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110819, China;SEP Key Laboratory of Eco-Industry, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110819, China
  • Online:2011-09-15 Published:2011-09-15

Abstract: Decoupling resource consumption from economic growth is an effective way of fundamentally improving environmental quality. Material flow analysis (MFA) has emerged as an important approach to quantifying and monitoring human use of natural resources. In this study, we compiled the amount of China’s domestic material consumption (DMC) for the resources of biomass, metal ores, non-metal ores and fossil fuels over the period 1998-2008 using the method of MFA. Then, we applied the decoupling indicator for resource consumption (Dr) and decoupling chart to the decoupling analysis of China’s resource consumption and GDP in the study period. Conclusions drawn from the analyses are as follows. With respect to China’s total resource consumption, only in year 2000 when absolute decoupling happened, in years 2003 and 2006, non-decoupling happened. In the other 7 years, relative decoupling happened. In terms of resource groups, biomass had relative higher decoupling indicators with the average value of 0.9, which is quite close to the critical value of absolute decoupling (1.0). In years 2000, 2001, and 2003 absolute decoupling happened for biomass, and in the other 7 years relative decoupling happened. Metal ores had the lowest decoupling indicators. Only over the period 1999-2001, relative decoupling was achieved for metal ores, and in the other 7 years no decoupling occurred. A volatile fluctuation was observed for the decoupling indicators of non-metal ores, for which absolute decoupling took place in 2000, and relative decoupling happened in years 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2008. For fossil fuels, relative decoupling was achieved in most years of the observation period, except for 2003-2005, in which no decoupling was achieved. During the study period, biomass had much higher decoupling indicators than metal ores, non-metal ores, and fossil fuels. The key reason for this phenomenon is that China was in the process of industrialization, particularly in the process of heavy industrialization, which caused rapid growth of infrastructure construction and consumed vast amount of basic materials. Therefore, when making decoupling policies, we should pay more attention to resources of metal ores, non-metal ores, and fossil fuels with lower decoupling indicators, rather than biomass with higher decoupling indicators. In addition, to restrain irrationally increasing total resource consumption, an effective means would be matching the indicators of GDP growth (g) and the decreasing rate of resource consumption per unit of GDP (t) appropriately according to the formula of Dr when designing economic and environmental plans.

Key words: Decoupling analysis, Decoupling indicator for resource consumption, Decoupling chart, Resource consumption, Economic growth, GDP