Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2009, Vol. 64 ›› Issue (2): 234-242.doi: 10.11821/xb200902010

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Embodied in China's Foreign Trade

ZHANG Xiao-ping   

  1. College of Resources and Environment, Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2008-08-04 Revised:2008-11-03 Online:2009-02-25 Published:2009-02-25
  • Supported by:

    National Key Technology R&D Program, theMinistry of Science and Technology of P.R.C(No. 2007BAC03A11)


Efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that may be linked to climate change account carbon dioxide emission mostly referred to the country-level territories. However, inter-country flows of goods by international trade may cause emissions from local consumption suffered in an exporting county. Therefore, the estimation of carbon dioxide emissions associated with international trade (by excluding the emissions associated with exports and including the emissions associated with imports) will give a more complete picture of responsibilities of various countries for the emissions that cause the climate change. The aim of this study is to explore carbon dioxide emissions associated with international trade of China and their sources regarding the emissions of imports and exports on the results of its total emissions. China is now being regarded as the leading country of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, but how much of its emission reflects the production of goods for export to foreign economies need to be studied seriously. For this study, China's foreign trade data of exports and imports from U.S., EU and Japan by HS from 2000 to 2006 provided by Department of Trade and External Economic Relations Statistics of China were used, and the 98 divisions of HS goods was aggregated into 17 branch divisions according to industrial sector divisions used in China's Statistical Yearbook and China's input-output table. By employing input-output table, embodied energy consumption (energy consumption directly and indirectly caused by intermediary products) and associated carbon dioxide emissions of goods exported from China were calculated. The results show that carbon dioxide emissions embodied in exported goods from China has increased from 0.96 Gt in 2000 to 1.91 Gt in 2006, representing 30-35% of China's total emissions over the period. Based on CO2 emissions of fuel combustion in different countries, emissions embodied in imported goods to China from different trade partners were also estimated. It points out net carbon dioxide emissions embodied has increased from 0.13 Gt to 0.32 Gt in China-US trade, and 0.056 Gt to 0.227 Gt in China-EU trade, respectively, from 2000 to 2006. Since the Kyoto Protocol restricts emissions only in Annex I countries, there is a scope for Annex I countries to reduce domestic emissions without adjusting final consumption because they can import more goods from non-Annex I countries, for example, China. Finally, it argues improved international accounting methodologies for assigning responsibility for CO2 emissions must be designed to account for the dynamic nature of integrated international economy.

Key words: international trade, embodied carbon dioxide emission, input-output analysis, China