The virtual water and CO2 along with the energy trade has reshaped the water resources utilization and CO2 emissions, making the energy, water and carbon emission management more complicated. We employed the multi-regional input-output analysis to examine the virtual water-CO2 trade-offs driven by energy demand among Chinese regions in 2010. We observe different spatial distribution for water and CO2 footprints, which have high intensity in south and north China respectively, though most coastal provinces have high water and CO2 footprints than inland provinces. The virtual water and CO2 are transferring from central and west provinces to the coast, consistent with the energy transmission network, but at the risk of aggravating the water stress and CO2 emissions in especially Yellow River region (including Shanxi, Shaanxi, Henan, Inner Mongolia). By paying attention to different energy sectors, the major exporters are different, indicating the higher water pressure in Yangtze River region (including Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi), higher CO2 emission increase in Yellow River region induced by electricity sector, while the northeast region in both aspects induced by oil refining sector. To mitigate water consumption and CO2 emission both directly and indirectly, the sector interactions between energy and others highlight the upstream water use by agriculture, and the electricity sector’s water use and CO2 emissions. The environmental impacts driven by the same energy demand in each province are examined. Finally, policy implications are discussed based on the findings.
Keywords water-CO2-energy nexus; trade-offs; inputoutput analysis; China