Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (7): 855-870.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1302-3

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review on carbon emissions, energy consumption and low-carbon economy in China from a perspective of global climate change

Lei SHEN1(), Yanzhi *SUN1,2()   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2015-12-25 Accepted:2016-04-06 Online:2016-07-25 Published:2016-07-25
  • About author:

    Author: Shen Lei, Professor, E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Sun Yanzhi, PhD Candidate, E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271547;Strategic Priority Research Program - Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Related Issues of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDA05010400;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401644


Accompanying the rapid growth of China’s population and economy, energy consumption and carbon emission increased significantly from 1978 to 2012. China is now the largest energy consumer and CO2 emitter of the world, leading to much interest in researches on the nexus between energy consumption, carbon emissions and low-carbon economy. This article presents the domestic Chinese studies on this hotpot issue, and we obtain the following findings. First, most research fields involve geography, ecology and resource economics, and research contents contained some analysis of current situation, factors decomposition, predictive analysis and the introduction of methods and models. Second, there exists an inverted “U-shaped” curve connection between carbon emission, energy consumption and economic development. Energy consumption in China will be in a low-speed growth after 2035 and it is expected to peak between 6.19-12.13 billion TCE in 2050. China’s carbon emissions are expected to peak in 2035, or during 2020 to 2045, and the optimal range of carbon emissions is between 2.4-3.3 PgC/year (1 PgC=1 billion tons C) in 2050. Third, future research should be focused on global carbon trading, regional carbon flows, reforming the current energy structure, reducing energy consumption and innovating the low-carbon economic theory, as well as establishing a comprehensive theoretical system of energy consumption, carbon emissions and low-carbon economy.

Key words: carbon emissions, energy consumption, low-carbon economy, global climate change