Analysis of the embodied carbon emissions flows in China: applying a network perspective to sectors, provinces, and carbon communities within the Chinese economy

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With China’s commitment to achieve peak emissions by 2030, emissions from different sectors of the economy are being examined. China’s current carbon emissions mitigation research focus mainly on the two ends of the industrial supply chain: production and consumption. Most of the intermediate industries between these two ends are presently being overlooked. Research into the ways in which carbon emissions are transferred between sectors can provide a theoretical basis and evidence to identify the key industries and communities to achieve effective emissions mitigation. This research combines input–output modelling and network analysis to track and examine the transfer of embodied carbon emissions between sectors and regions in China. It develops an embodied carbon emission transfer network model for such a task. In addition, empirical studies are conducted to examine the emissions transfer in China from 2007 to 2012. Network analysis is applied to clarify transmission pathways from macro, meso and micro perspectives. The role played by the structure of sectors and carbon communities are studied using a hierarchical linear model. Network analysis metrics are used to prioritise which sectors to focus on to reduce future carbon emissions. Sectors with high out-degree, such as the electricity sector, and sectors with high in-degree, such as the construction sector, can act as a focal point for enhancing carbon emissions reduction performance. Sectors with high betweenness, such as the metallurgy sector, are shown to be hubs of the emission network, and can work as leverage points for cutting carbon-intensive inputs and hence reduce total carbon emissions along industrial supply chains. The identification of carbon communities within which sectors engage in intensive carbon emissions exchange can help provincial governments make decisions about where they can collaborate to obtain synergistic outcomes in reducing carbon emissions. Sectors within the same community, such as Shanghai-Zhejiang community, can strengthen their cooperation to achieve greater mitigation efficiency. Additionally, for communities which have comparatively low within-community carbon flows, such as Shanxi community, the focus should be on external connections outside the community. ‘One community – one policy’ is proposed for the carbon emissions mitigation work. A sector’s emissions are affected both by its node level and community level structures. Therefore, to reduce the carbon emissions, the sector and its community should be considered together to achieve a synergy. In addition, the increasing size and density of carbon communities due to industrial agglomeration can have a restraining effect on the growth of sectoral carbon emissions.
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