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Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 222; doi:10.3390/su8030222

The Decoupling of Resource Consumption and Environmental Impact from Economic Growth in China: Spatial Pattern and Temporal Trend

1
Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
2
Institute for Circular Economy in Western China, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
3
Key Lab of Pollution Ecology and Environmental Engineering, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China
4
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam 14467, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Vincenzo Torretta
Received: 26 November 2015 / Revised: 19 February 2016 / Accepted: 24 February 2016 / Published: 29 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources)
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Abstract

Unprecedented economic achievement in China has occurred along with rising resource consumption and waste productions levels. The goal of sustainability requires the decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption (resource decoupling) and environmental degradation (impact decoupling). For this paper, the performances of resource decoupling (energy and water) and impact decoupling (wastewater, SO2 and CO2) in China were evaluated, and the spatial pattern and temporal trend of decoupling performance were investigated by using the rescaled range analysis (R/S). The results indicate the following. (1) The performance of resource decoupling during the investigated period is worse than that of traditional impact (SO2 and wastewater) decoupling, but better than that of the CO2 emission. Additionally, the decoupling performances of energy consumption and related pollutant emission (except CO2) are better than that of water usage and wastewater discharge; (2) The decoupling performance of energy consumption, SO2 and CO2, has substantially improved from the 10th Five-Year Planning Period (FYP) (2001–2005) to the 11th FYP (2006–2010), which indicates that the decoupling performance is highly related the environmental policy; (3) The spatial disparities of the performance of resource and impact decoupling are declining, which indicates the existence of cross-province convergence in decoupling performance; (4) The decoupling performance of SO2 and water usage in most of regions shows an improving trend. Inversely, the decoupling performance of energy consumption, CO2 emission, and wastewater discharge in most regions show a decreasing trend; (5) China needs more stringent water-saving targets and wastewater discharge standards; better policy efforts to improve the water recycling level both in agricultural, industrial and municipal level are required to prevent the decreasing trend of the decoupling performance. View Full-Text
Keywords: decoupling; environmental pressure; economic growth; spatial pattern; temporal trend decoupling; environmental pressure; economic growth; spatial pattern; temporal trend
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Zhang, Z.; Xue, B.; Pang, J.; Chen, X. The Decoupling of Resource Consumption and Environmental Impact from Economic Growth in China: Spatial Pattern and Temporal Trend. Sustainability 2016, 8, 222.

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