Unveiling the Spatial-Temporal Characteristics and Driving Factors of Greenhouse Gases and Atmospheric Pollutants Emissions of Energy Consumption in Shandong Province, China
3.1. Emissions and Source Distribution of GHGs and Air Pollutants
Railway turnover in Shandong Province showed a decreasing trend from 2011 to 2015. However, driven by the “road-to-rail transfer” policy, freight turnover increased from 107,728 million ton-kilometers to 168,212 million ton-kilometers between 2015 and 2021. Especially after 2018, Shandong actively implemented the Three-year Action Plan for Promoting Transportation Structural Adjustment (2018–2020), which resulted in an annual growth rate of 8.25% in freight turnover. Nonetheless, the expansion of railway electrification, along with the improvement of internal combustion locomotives and the implementation of stricter fuel standards, has resulted in a significant reduction in pollutant emissions. For example, SO2 emissions were reduced from 238.9 kt to 5.6 kt, a 97% reduction. However, there is still potential for rail transport to reduce emissions as the electrification of railroads advances and transport efficiency continues to be optimized.
3.3. Comparison and Evaluation of Emission Inventory
Overall, our findings are generally in agreement with previous studies that have demonstrated similar emission trends. This provides reliability validation for our research methodology and a solid foundation for future studies.
3.4. Uncertainty Analysis
The uncertainty in SO2 emissions is the smallest, primarily because the material balance method is used heavily in the evaluation process. For instance, the sulfur content in fossil fuels and the removal efficiency of devices are determined based on local data from Shandong Province. Additionally, the activity data, sourced entirely from the official statistics of Shandong Province, are highly credible. However, for pollutants such as CO, VOCs, and NH3, the uncertainty is relatively higher due to the limited availability of local data, necessitating the sourcing of some information from literature in other regions. In terms of emission sources, non-road sources and biomass combustion exhibit significant uncertainty, primarily due to the lack of extensive field surveys and the incompleteness of data regarding open straw burning sourced from the Rural Agriculture Department.
3.5. Analysis of Driving Factors
3.6. Scenario Prediction
Both the SCP and the BER achieve the peak of GHG in 2030, but their paths and peaks are different. The SCP is based on a set of medium parameters such as fertility and economic growth, while the BER focuses on the quality of life by combining high economic growth, low energy consumption, and a high volume of patented inventions. In contrast, the BER might result in 31.5 Mt CO2eq less cumulative GHG emissions in 2022–2035 compared to the peaking scenario. The GER peaks at 1009.3 Mt CO2eq of GHG emissions in 2027. However, this requires lower energy consumption, lower fertility, and lower per capita GDP growth. This suggests that sacrificing certain economic and demographic factors for environmental quality may not be a viable option in the long run.
The air pollutant equivalent showed a downward trend in different development scenarios, indicating active efforts to reduce air pollutant emissions in each scenario. However, the rate of decline varies in different scenarios. In the BAU, the rate of reduction by 2028 is lower than in the other four scenarios. Unexpectedly, after 2028, the air pollutant equivalents of the HSD and the GER will be higher than those of the BAU. This finding leads us to rethink that pursuing economic growth alone, or focusing too much on peaking carbon emissions, may not be consistent with long-term sustainability. In addition, the SCP and BER have achieved significant results in reducing air pollutants, demonstrating that striking a balance between economic growth and environmental protection is both practical and feasible. More importantly, such balancing strategies are likely to have long-term and lasting positive effects. This study highlights the need to adopt a global perspective and long-term planning in the formulation of relevant policies, integrating multiple elements to help us achieve the best balance between economic growth and environmental protection. This research result not only has reference value for future policy setting but also highlights the importance of balanced economic and environmental development and points out the direction for subsequent related research.
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