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Achieving low-carbon urban passenger transport in China: Insights from the heterogeneous rebound effect

Zhenni Chen, Huibin Du, Jianglong Li, Frank Southworth and Shoufeng Ma

Energy Economics, 2019, vol. 81, issue C, 1029-1041

Abstract: The rapid increase in energy consumption and carbon emissions in China's passenger transportation sector threatens both the environment and the nation's energy security. Energy efficiency improvements, leading to lower fuel consumption, are therefore of considerable interest to policymakers trying to achieve low-carbon travel. However, it is well established that higher miles per gallon efficiencies can, by reducing the costs of travel, lead to some level of increased personal travel: the so-called ‘rebound effect’. This paper describes an empirical study to measure the size and also the variability in this effect at the provincial level and what this variability implies for a carbon tax policy. This rebound effect is quantified using a two-stage Almost Ideal Demand System (AIDS) model. A backfire effect (i.e. the rebound is ≫100%) is observed in urban passenger transport, with disparities in the size of the rebound effect ranging from 114% to 153% among China's provinces. The differences in economic development as well as related differences in consumers' behavior, especially in the behavior of “marginal consumers”, have contributed to this heterogeneity, with a larger carbon tax (more than 110Yuan/tonne) needed in richer provinces such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujian in order to bring about similar levels of carbon reductions nationwide.

Keywords: Urban passenger transport; CO2 rebound effect; Heterogeneity; Carbon tax (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C13 C39 D12 Q40 Q54 R20 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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