Although urbanization should be an integrated process of rural-to-urban transformation involving the interactions and mutual influences between population urbanization and land urbanization, its definition in such multi-dimensioned terms is as yet underexplored. This is an important issue for the relationship between urbanization and carbon emissions, as the fuzzy definition of urbanization may have contributed to the neglect of the mechanisms involved, with misleading low-carbon policy implications and misguidance for achieving 2030 carbon emission peak goals. This study is one of the first attempts to disaggregate the urbanization nexus and simultaneously explore the correlation between land urbanization and population urbanization, and carbon emissions across China.
The findings suggest that land urbanization and population urbanization both have an inverted U-shaped correlation with carbon emissions, and a U-shaped relationship with carbon productivity. These results support the environmental Kuznets curve, in that urbanization helps mitigate carbon dioxide emissions in the long run depending on urbanization performance. However, unlike western countries, the triple restrictions of land policy, fiscal and taxation policies, and the household registration system, as well as the disconnection between urbanization and industrial development in China will result in the asynchrony of land urbanization and population urbanization. The results also point to a considerable but differentiated potential for urbanization to reduce GHG emissions through effective urbanization management and policy adjustment, and that low-carbon policies and strategies need to be tailor-made based on regional differentiations.
Keywords urbanization, carbon emissions, carbon productivity, low-carbon strategies