CO2 emission patterns in shrinking and growing cities: A case study of Northeast China and the Yangtze River Delta

Huijuan Xiao, Zhiyuan Duan, Ya Zhou, Ning Zhang, Yuli Shan*, Xiyan Lin, Guosheng Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The implementation of CO2 emission mitigation policies in cities is the key to China achieving its national emission mitigation targets. China is experiencing rapid urbanization and facing huge inequality in regional development and then shrinking cities generate. This study, for the first time, discusses long-term CO2 emission patterns of shrinking cities with comparisons of growing cities. 55 cities in Northeast China and the Yangtze River Delta are selected as cases. We first categorize these cities into three groups of shrinking cities and three groups of growing cities with a population index. Each group's emission patterns in terms of energy, employment and industry structures are then examined. We find that CO2 emissions in the rapidly shrinking group presented a continuously increasing trend, while the other five groups reached their emission peaks in 2011-2013. For slightly and moderately shrinking groups, CO2 emission mitigation was a positive sign but occurred with the decline of secondary industry, especially for resource-based or heavy manufacturing cities, such as Daqing and Anshan in Northeast China. In the case of three types of growing cities, cities were capable of mitigating CO2 emissions and maintaining economic growth. The slightly growing group was the optimal type among these six groups. Its CO2 emissions experienced a decline with an annual rate of -1.47% during 2013-2015, while the economy still soared (increased by 7.27% annually). New economic growth points should be fostered to mitigate further shrinkage and achieve sustainable development for shrinking cities. The cities' categorization rules, research thinking, and results offered in this study could provide a reference for other cities or developing countries at similar industrialization/urbanization phases to abbreviate their path towards a low-carbon economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113384
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1-Oct-2019


  • CO2 emissions
  • Shrinking city
  • Growing city
  • Population
  • Urbanization
  • China
  • CITY

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