Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2011, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (2): 301-316.doi: 10.1007/s11442-011-0846-5

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The effects of international trade on Chinese carbon emissions: An empirical analysis

WEI Benyong1,2, FANG Xiuqi2, WANG Yuan3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration, Beijing 100029, China;
    2. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China;
    3. School of Environment Science and Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China
  • Received:2010-08-14 Revised:2010-09-21 Online:2011-04-15 Published:2011-04-15
  • Supported by:

    National Science & Technology Pillar Programme of China, No.2007BAC03A11


International trade is an important impact factor to the carbon emissions of a country. As the rapid development of Chinese foreign trade since its entry into the WTO in 2002, the effects of international trade on carbon emissions of China are more and more significant. Using the recent available input-output tables of China and energy consumption data, this study estimated the effects of Chinese foreign trade on carbon emissions and the changes of the effects by analyzing the emissions embodied in trade between 2002 and 2007. The results showed a more and more significant exporting behavior of embodied carbon emissions in Chinese international trade. From 2002 to 2007, the proportion of net exported emissions and domestic exported emissions in domestic emissions increased from 18.32% to 29.79% and from 23.97% to 34.76%, respectively. In addition, about 22.10% and 32.29% of the total imported emissions were generated in processing trade in 2002 and 2007, respectively, which were imported and later exported emissions. Although, most of the sectors showed a growth trend in imported and exported emissions, sectors of electrical machinery and communication electronic equipment, chemical industry, and textile were still the biggest emission exporters, the net exported emissions of which were also the largest. For China and other developing countries, technology improvement may be the most favorable and acceptable ways to reduce carbon emissions at present stage. In the future negotiations on emissions reduction, it would be more fair and reasonable to include the carbon emissions embodied in international trade when accounting the total emissions of an economy.

Key words: input-output analysis, carbon emissions, international trade, China