With a continuously growing share of the world’s overall energy consumption, the transport sector has been acknowledged as one of the most important contributors to global carbon emissions. This paper applies a complete decomposition and decoupling analysis to investigate and quantitatively analyze the main factors influencing the energy-related carbon emissions of the transport (TCE) sector during 1995–2012 in Guangdong, the richest and most populated province in China. Results showed that decoupling level between transport output and TCE was relatively low, especially when compared with year 1995, in which case it remained as expansive coupling. Optimization of tertiary industry structure was the main factor inhibiting TCE increase. However the rapid growth of GDP per capita and population was more powerful at boosting TCE, resulting in elasticity index rising directly. 2005 was a turning point when environmental friendly policies took action, after which decoupling state improved significantly, achieving weak decoupling when comparing adjacent years. By studying TCE and its components, we found that the National 5-Year Plan policy impacts TCE tremendously, which leads to a 5-year periodic pattern of fluctuations. This highlights policy as potentially the most important factor behind Guangdong’s decoupling effort, dwarfing the impact from energy and other inner-drivers.
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