Resource Use in Growing China

Natural resources provide the basis for our life on Earth. This article presents the accounts of China's direct material input (DMI) during 1998–2008. Using decomposition, we examine factors that have influenced changes in recent resource use in China. China's resource demand in 2011–2015 is projected, based on China's 12th Five‐Year Plan. Finally, effective policies to restrain China's resource demand are discussed with the following conclusions: (1) During 1998–2008, China's DMI doubled, from 11 gigatons (Gt) to 22 Gt. Metallic minerals had the strongest growth, quadrupling; nonmetallic minerals and fossil fuels more than doubled, but biomass remained stable. In relative terms, nonmetallic minerals dominated, with more than 60% of total DMI. (2) Factors of affluence (A) and material use intensity (T), respectively, contributed most to the increase and decrease of DMI, but the overall decrease effect is much smaller. Factors of population (P) and recycling (R) only slightly affected changes in China's DMI. (3) During 2008–2015, China's DMI is expected to increase by 27% to 38%, from 22 Gt to 28 to 31 Gt. The average annual rate of increase of DMI would drop to 3% to 5%, from 7% during 1998–2008. (4) Designing new products and infrastructure that use less energy and materials and changing consumption patterns to be more sustainable are crucial to the future resource strategy of China. More policies are expected to improve China's material use intensity and recycling levels.

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