As the largest emitter of CO2
, China has also serious air pollution issues. Is it possible to catch these two rabbits under heterogenetic conditions of urbanization? To answer this, this study examines atmospheric environmental performance (SO2
, and PMs) of 30 major cities in China using streaming data from 2011 to 2017. A non-radial SBM-DEA approach is adopted with a meta-frontier model to evaluate regional heterogeneity in atmospheric environmental management. Our results suggest that pollution prevention and regulation policies encouraged synergic development of most cities in the economy and atmospheric environment. On average, atmospheric environmental efficiency of the cities improved from 0.556 to 0.691. However, significantly unbalanced development exists in the regions, requiring customized policies. Eastern cities achieved continuing improvement owing to stringent air pollutant emission policies. Central cities showed a strong improvement but lacked momentum after they achieved certain targets. Western cities lagged behind in the studying period due to both technology gap as well as weak regulation. Furthermore, we identify heterogeneous paths for inefficient cities to enhance their performance using benchmark information. Economically developed eastern cities, such as Beijing, Fuzhou, are facing an over-supply issue. Reshaping their economic structure may be necessary to attain better environmental performance. Central cities face diversified issues. The emphasis of different cities may vary from stringent emission policies to proactive supply-side transition to achieve strong atmospheric management performance. For under-developed cities, preferential policies for investment and tax incentives may be needed to improve their production scale for higher efficiency.
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