As the natural resources are getting exhausted, the concept of sustainable development of regions has received increasing attention, especially for resource-dependent cities. In this paper, an innovative method based on emergy analysis and the Human Impact Population Affluence Technology (IPAT) model is developed to analyze the quantitative relationship of economic growth, energy consumption and its overall sustainability level. Taiyuan, a traditional, resource-dependent city in China, is selected as the case study region. The main results show that the total emergy of Taiyuan increased from 9.023 × 1023
sej in 2007 to 9.116 × 1023
sej in 2014, with a 38% decline in non-renewable emergy and an increase of imported emergy up to 125%. The regional emergy money ratio (EMB) was reduced by 48% from 5.31 × 1013
sej/$ in 2007 to 2.74 × 1013
sej/$ in 2014, indicating that the increasing speed of consuming resources and energy was faster than the increase of GDP, and that Taiyuan’s money purchasing power declined. The lower emergy sustainability index (ESI) indicates that Taiyuan was explored and produced large quantities of mineral resources, which puts more stress on the environment as a consequence, and that this is not sustainable in the long run. The IPAT analysis demonstrates that Taiyuan sticks to the efforts of energy conservation and environmental protection. In order to promote regional sustainable development, it is necessary to have an integrated effort. Policy insights suggest that resourceful regions should improve energy and resource efficiency, optimize energy and resourceful structure and carry out extensive public participation.
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