Material footprint of a fast-industrializing region in China, Part 1: Exploring the materialization process of Liaoning Province

Liaoning Province is one of the most important industrial bases in China that is confronting the challenges of resource restriction during the rapid industrialization and urbanization process. To explore the materialization process on an economy, previous studies have focused on the Material Footprint (MF), a consumption-based indicator of resource use, at the national level, but few results are available at the subdivision level, especially in rapidly developing China. In this study, a Structural Decomposition Analysis (SDA) was conducted of the MF of Liaoning to understand the key drivers behind the consumption of raw materials. The results show that Liaoning’s MF more than tripled, with an average annual growth rate of 13.4%, rising from 534 Mt to 1880 Mt during 2002–2012. Among the four material categories, nonmetallic minerals dominated the MF by 55–77% and contributed 83.3% to the total increase. From a sectoral viewpoint, construction dominated the MF by 65–85% and accounted for 90.8% of growth. In addition, among the four categories of final demand, investment played a prominent role in the MF, which more than quadrupled from 414 Mt (77.5%) in 2002 to 1701 Mt (90.5%) in 2012. The SDA results show that per capita final demand level was the strongest contributor, and that production structure was another chief contributor. In contrast, the significant improvement in material intensity and final demand composition played an important role in dematerialization of Liaoning. Optimizing investment towards less material-intensive sectors and designing mandatory targets for non-energy resources should be given more importance.