IMPACT OF GROWTH ON ENERGY REQUIREMENTS AND CARBON EMISSIONS
Gokhale Institute of Politics & Economics
The main purpose of this project is to analyse the impact of per capita GDP on the
consumption of energy by the countries. Hence, a cross-sectional study is undertaken for
the year 2009. Apart from the energy consumption, carbon emission is also investigated
with the changes in per capita GDP levels and an attempt is made to recognise the factors
on which the causality exists. The question is important from the perspective of energy
economics and development economics. Governments of a number of countries focus on
this for the purpose of formulating policies and hence a number of researches have been
done on this issue and various results have been found. The project is based upon simple
econometric techniques and results are different in a way that in some cases relation
might be strong, while in others it might be weak or rather opposite. Since the recent
issues concern environmental protection and sustainable usage of energy, the project tries
to evaluate to its best, the factors that could affect these variables apart from the income
levels; and hence some control variables are also used in the model. We also try to prove
the Kuznets curve for the world pollution and growth.
The energy demand and consumption is increasing day by day all over the world and so
an overall increasing trend has been discovered. There are different forms of energy and it
is basically divided into renewable and non-renewable sources. The division of energy has
brought up the fact that the non-renewable energy sources like oil, fossil fuel and gas are
being used at an increasing rate in spite of other renewable sources being available.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the average per capita energy
consumption has increased by 10% from 1990 to 2008, while the population
increased by 27%. Energy consumption is associated with economic activity since
industrial sector, as well as other sectors, highly relies upon energy availability. Countries
use different sources of energy; however oil turns out to be the largest source. The
findings about the energy consumption can be summarised with the help of the figure
The graph shows that overall consumption has increased across the years and it is the
non-renewable sources whose share dominates. It clearly indicates that there is
something which stands to be the reason behind such growth rates. Hence, in this project
we try to assess the impact of rising per capita incomes and population on energy
consumption and see whether there is any causation. Why do we do this?
It has been pointed out to the fact there is a need to put check upon the usage of energy
as the sources are limited and would exhaust eventually. The growing concern of
environmentalists has led the countries to form certain bodies like IEA, Sustainable
Energy Authority Ireland, etc. The governments have also tried to involve themselves by
formulating certain standards for energy consumption such as “International Energy
Consumption Code (IECC)” by the United States of America for implementing the
designing and construction necessities for energy efficiency. It is often believed that the
rapid growth in population in underdeveloped and developing countries is the cause for
the surge in per capita energy consumption, though there is also a large body of
researchers who believe that it is the rich and technically advanced countries which
consume majority of energy in their attempt to support high grade infrastructure and
capital. Thus additional to the evaluation of an aggregate impact of per capita income on
energy consumption, sectoral analysis is also done by dividing the countries into high
income, middle income and low income countries and summarising the results by
comparing the size of the coefficients and their significance.
The second part of the project deals with the carbon emissions from the countries and
tries to bring out the causality between per capita income and the emissions. Again, we
use the same time period and set of countries with the similar approach of getting
aggregate as well disaggregated income level differences effect upon emission. This subject
is of importance due to the growing concern of environmentalists about the changing
composition of Earth’s atmosphere and increased CO2 levels which lead to global warming
and other negative impacts globally. The approval and adoption of Kyoto protocol which
sets standards on the emission of greenhouse gases brings in the debate which says that
highly advanced countries produce more greenhouse gases than less advanced countries,
and so we try to analyse this through an econometric framework.
We try to see that whether this relation is strong, weak or absent. Control variable like
population level is also employed in the model for more efficient results. The inclusion of
population helps us to realise and identify the intensity of the causes which are supposed
to be behind the growing level of carbon emissions. Dividing the countries into different
income groups is also beneficial as it shall help us to investigate the Environmental
Kuznets’s Curve and bring in more detailed causation across all the countries of the
world. The reason for an inverted U-shape curve is based upon the fact that emission
levels are less in the initial stages of development; however it increases as development
proceeds, but with more sophisticated ways of preventing pollution through technical
advancements the levels finally decrease, hence giving an inverted U-shape.
The first part of the project is mainly to assess the causation between per capita
consumption of energy and per capita income (GDP). We expect a positive relation
between the two, as according to the available literature and other studies, consumption
of energy increases as the income increases. There could be reasons which attribute to
this relation like: at the household level for instance, with the increased incomes and
capacity to spend, more and more energy consuming devices are brought in use. We
specify the model of our first part as:
y = β1 + β2(GDP per Capita) + β3(population) + ei
Here, y is energy per capita consumed (in million btu) and apart from per capita GDP,
population is also used as variable for it also effects the demand for energy. The impact of
population cannot be predicted before the analysis, because we use energy consumed in
per capita terms, hence one intuition says that, as the population increases the total
energy divided amongst all individuals should decline, however we can also say that as
the population increases the total consumption of energy may increase more than the
increase in population which then can have an overall positive effect on per capita energy
The graph shown below shows the relationship between the growth of economy given by
per capita incomes and energy use per capita.
A better representation of the relation is given by the log of per capita income and log of
per capita energy use.
We observe a very strong correlation between the two variables which means that as
income grows, the use of energy also rises.
Now dividing the countries into the three stages of development, namely developed(greater
than $20000), developing(between $2000- $20000) and underdeveloped(less than $2000),
we get a set of 32 developed countries, 33 underdeveloped countries and 67 developing
countries from 132 countries.
The diagrams show the difference in consumption of energy for different levels of
development. The countries at the highest and lowest level don’t change their energy
needs much as the ones at the top already have reached the maximum energy
requirements and the ones at the bottom use energy required for subsistence. For the
developing countries, the energy levels are the highest as they struggle to reach the status
of a developed nation.
Relation between the level of pollution and Economic Growth
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that causes
adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as
noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign
substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. The major forms of pollution
are listed below along with the particular contaminant relevant to each of them:
Air pollution: the release of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere. Common
gaseous pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
and nitrogen oxides produced by industry and motor vehicles.
Light pollution: includes light trespass, over-illumination and astronomical interference.
Littering: the criminal throwing of inappropriate man-made objects, unremoved, onto
public and private properties.
Noise pollution: which encompasses roadway noise, aircraft noise, industrial noise as
well as high-intensity sonar.
Soil contamination: occurs when chemicals are released by spill or underground
Radioactive contamination, resulting from 20th century activities in atomic physics,
such as nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons research, manufacture and
Thermal pollution, is a temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human
influence, such as use of water as coolant in a power plant.
Visual pollution, which can refer to the presence of overhead power lines, motorway
billboards, scarred landforms (as from strip mining), open storage of trash, municipal
solid waste or space debris.
Water pollution, by the discharge of wastewater from commercial and industrial waste
(intentionally or through spills) into surface waters; discharges of untreated domestic
sewage, and chemical contaminants, such as chlorine, from treated sewage; release of
waste and contaminants into surface runoff flowing to surface waters (including urban
runoff and agricultural runoff, which may contain chemical fertilizers and pesticides);
waste disposal and leaching into groundwater; Eutrophication and littering.
Here in this project, we shall only be dealing with CO2 emissions which a major part of the
pollution emitted or discharged in the society. The main aim of this part of the project is
to relate the level of pollution in economies to their level of growth. It has been empirically
and theoretically proved that as the economy grows; it requires more energy to produce
goods and services (what we proved in the first half of the project) and thus more
emissions and wastes. It can be argued that the world has now been shifting to more
conventional forms of energy; moving to renewable resources but the statistics show that
only 3% of total world energy use is supplemented by such resources and the larger
chunk is still managed by polluting non renewable sources of energy. We shall also try
and see if the KUZNETS’ CURVE holds for the economy as a whole. The impact of reforms
and environmental laws in regulating degradation will also be looked at and analysed.
Thus, we will show how such laws affect pollution levels and also the growth of economy
and do such laws in any way inhibit the economic growth.
Pollution and Economic Growth (Kuznets’ Curve)
The environmental Kuznets curve is a hypothesized relationship between various
indicators of environmental degradation and income per capita. In the early stages of
economic growth degradation and pollution increase, but beyond some level of income per
capita (which will vary for different indicators) the trend reverses, so that at high-income
levels economic growth leads to environmental improvement. This implies that the
environmental impact indicator is an inverted U-shaped function of income per capita.
Typically the logarithm of the indicator is modelled as a quadratic function of the
logarithm of income. The EKC is named for Kuznets (1955) who hypothesized income
inequality first rises and then falls as economic development proceeds.
Therefore, the equation for Kuznets Curve can be written as
𝒍𝒐𝒈 𝒑𝒐𝒍𝒍𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 = 𝜷𝟏 + 𝜷𝟐 𝒍𝒐𝒈 𝒈𝒅𝒑 + 𝒆
For the data for 187 countries for the years 1960- 2005, the following results were found:
Multiple R 0.784948
Adjusted R Square
1 4.923204 4.923204 77.04643 1.51E-11
48 3.067161 0.063899
Standard Error t Stat
P-value Lower 95% Upper 95%Lower 95.0%
1.422009 0.302447 4.701687 2.21E-05
0.340139 0.038751 8.77761 1.51E-11 0.262226 0.418053 0.262226 0.418053
The results showed that per unit change in per capita income leads to 0.340 change
in pollution but since the data suggests only 61% of the changes in pollution can be
explained by the changes in GDP per capita, the goodness of fit is less and thus the
data cannot be widely used for analysis. The positive sign of GDP per capita shows that
the level of pollution will rise with economic growth and the negative sign of the coefficient
of GDP2 tells that the increase will be at a decreasing rate.
Also plotting the same for the India and China gives us the following results:
Multiple R 0.931131
Adjusted R Square
Standard Error t Stat
P-value Lower 95% Upper 95%Lower 95.0%
-1.78473 0.142641 -12.5121 1.01E-16 -2.07153 -1.49793 -2.07153 -1.49793
0.451514 0.025525 17.68939 1.15E-22 0.400193 0.502834 0.400193 0.502834
Multiple R 0.969975
Adjusted R Square
Standard Error .32376
Standard Error t Stat
P-value Lower 95% Upper 95%Lower 95.0%
-4.61335 0.24688 -18.6866 1.15E-23 -5.10974 -4.11697 -5.10974 -4.11697
1.167546 0.042254 27.6317 3.97E-31 1.082589 1.252503 1.082589 1.252503
The above data shows the impact of economic growth on the two of the world’s emerging
economies. The data shows the difference between the development paths of the two
countries. For India, the pollution increase by 0.45 for a unit increase in GDP per
capita but for China, it is as high as 1.167 for each increase in GDP per capita. The
significant difference between the two is basically due to the sectoral division of the
economy; India’s economy has the highest composition of services and therefore lesser
pollution than Chinese for they are more inclined towards manufacturing. Therefore we
can also say that a sectoral difference in economies also adds differently to the levels
of pollution. The Chinese economy is the second largest in the world after the USA which
has been contributing the maximum to environment degradation. Even for USA, the effect
of economic growth on pollution is 0.41064; the number looks quite small as compared to
China or even India but it is a deception. The country over the time has contributed its bit
and now has completed turned into a service economy but even today the pollution levels
are high enough. Also US has been exporting its polluting industries to the developing
world reducing the blame on it.
Plotting the data for the 189 countries for the year 2009 on a graph shows the following:
pollution vs log gdp per capita
pollution vs log gdp
We can see that the level of pollution is higher for the developing countries as compared to
the developed world but there are some countries with higher levels of pollution and
environment degradation. These single peaks at certain growth levels can be regarded as
exceptions and a generalised idea can be concluded that as the economies grow, the level
of pollution will decline or even can grow with it.
As we know, as economic growth is experienced by countries across the globe, their
consumption of energy for production rises and thus more and more pollution is emitted.
But as their growth is constant and high enough, the country can take goals apart from
growth and thus they concentrate on the degraded environment and laws for strict
environment conservation are made and implemented. At such higher level of per capita
incomes, a little growth can be compromised for better environment and future. Such a
situation gives rise to an inverted U shape curve which is given by the Environment
Kuznets Curve; a curve designed by Simon Kuznets. It lies in parallel to the Kuznets
Inequality Curve given in 1955.
The Environment Kuznets Curve (EKC) says that the pollution will first increase
with the level of GDP per capita, reach maximum and then decrease at higher levels
of income. The policy implications of this finding according to some are grow first and
then clean up. Some have argued that economic growth is a panacea or “cure all” for
environmental degradation, “in the end the best and probably the only-way to attain a
decent level of environment quality.” Another writer claims that existing environmental
regulations by reducing growth may actually be reducing environmental quality.
The explanations for Environmental Kuznets Curve are given as follows:
a. A natural progression of economic development from clean agrarian economies to
polluting industries to clean service economies.
b. Advanced economies exporting their pollution to less developed countries.
c. The internalization of externalities requires relatively advanced institutions for collective
d. Another model is that below a threshold level of pollution only the dirtiest technology
will be used.
e. Environmental quality is a stock resource that degrades over time.
f. Demand for environmental quality overtakes supply ultimately.
Therefore, we can see that there exists a stronger relationship between the reduction of
pollution and stronger environment laws and this can very well explain the downward
shift in the EKC.
The graph below shows the trend for the world over the four decades for economic growth
and level of pollution. As we can see, the world economy has been growing with time and
newer innovations and technology in every field has also led to increase in pollution levels.
But the increment in the level of pollution has seen a very different path. When the world
was primitive, every year added a lot of pollution to the environment and thus the growth
rate of pollution was very high but as the world was on the path of development, at
various stages, the importance of the sustainable development was realised and thus the
growth of pollution fell.
Trends for the
Figure: The graph shows the different stages of growth of pollution where till 198o, the pollution
increased at an increasing rate which was later smoothened by the strict policies like Stockholm
Conference and Earth First for the world. The pollution again rose after 2003 for the decline the
production and upcoming recession led to more use of resources and pollution.
It has been quite constant over the time and again started rising after 2003. There is
always a trade off for the countries to reduce the economic growth and pay attent
ion to the problem of environment degradation and this sacrifice for one another leads to
another important phenomenon which can be regarded as an extension of Kuznets Curve
and is called the double hump model; in this model, after reducing their pollution to a
certain extent, the countries again increase production and shift their polluting processes
to other territories thereby increasing pollution again. This leads to an upward trend
again for the pollution levels. Again the importance of environment leads to a decline in
pollution level. The above graph has shown an upward trend, then a constant (non
increasing) and then again an increasing trend in pollution over the years which is the
double hump. The last stage of the relation cannot be seen in the figure above.
As it can be seen that the growth of pollution was indeed high at the earlier stages and as
the world economy grows, the level of pollution falls with better laws. Around the 80’s, the
growth of pollution fell and it increased after 2007. Seeing the history chart, it can be seen
that the years around 1980 and 2007 had experienced great turmoil in the field of
environment regulations and economic growth.
growth of pollution
growth of pollution
Figure: The figure shows how the growth of pollution has been trending over the years. The 1980s
obviously showed a negative growth of pollution which later took an upward turn during the 2000s
Until the late 1960s, most international agreements aimed at protecting the environment
served narrowly defined utilitarian purposes. Beginning with the 1972 Stockholm
Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, however,
international agreements came to reflect a desire to limit damages to the environment.
These international agreements paralleled national legislation which increasingly sought
to preserve the environment. International environmental law encompasses a diverse
group of topics, Earth First is a radical environmental advocacy group that emerged in
the south western United States in 1979. It was co-founded on April 4th, 1980 by Dave
Foreman, Mike Roselle, Howie Wolke, and less directly, Bart Koehler and Ron Kezar.
There are Earth First! groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,
Netherlands, Belgium, Philippines, Czech Republic, India, Mexico, France, Germany, New
Zealand, Poland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy, and Spain. Many such initiatives were
even taken in India where the EPA, 1986 was passed and thus the pollution was under
control. Thus we can see that proper laws and regulations have led to better management
of environment in the path of growth. Now we shall be looking at the relation between the
environment regulations and level of pollution control.
Impact of regulations on level of pollution
The downward shift in the Kuznets curve is very well explained by the policies regarding
environment and thus as the economy grows, governments try and focus on
sustainability. This leads to the stricter rules but they can’t for always compromise on
growth and after taking a lot of conservative measures for environment, they again go for
economic growth leading to higher pollution levels again. We can in a sense say that the
governments always go for a constant trade off between environment degradation and
The same conclusion can be seen from the real world data over time.
log gdp per capita
Figure: The pollution trend for Europe experienced a sharp structural break in around 1980s after the
Stockholm Conference and other Acts in Europe to control over its increasing share in environment
degradation. Also greater use of renewable resources reduced its pollution levels.
The above figure shows the trend for pollution and per capita incomes for Europe over the
years 1960-2009. The upward trend in pollution was interrupted and a downfall was seen
in the years around 1980 due to the better and stricter environment laws and regulations.
After the year 1980, the European countries have been trusting renewable sources of
energy and utilising them to their potential. Renewable resources, which are eco friendly
and emit least pollution, account for around 9% of their total energy consumption and it
is among the highest for the world. The pollution has therefore been quite stable after the
mid 80’s along with increased GDP growth.
For the middle income countries, the level of pollution has been rising and shall continue
to rise for a very long period now. The reason being the level of development for these
countries; the demonstration effect plays its role. The countries face competition from the
already developed world and therefore have to make constant efforts for reaching their
status. The second struggles for the living standards of the first world and in the process
have to undergo huge production of goods and services and thereby increase the pollution
levels. Also the developed countries have been shifting their production processes in the
third world and developing countries to reduce their levels of emissions and portraying a
better image in the world. They have been shifting to the services sector domestically. The
newer international norms for environment fix quotas and limits pollution by countries.
The developed countries trade these quotas of the developing world and hence increase
overall pollution levels in the world.
Trends for the
log gdp per capita
Figure: there has been a general trend for the developing countries for pollution which has been
increasing over time with no changes or breaks in between. This is basically due to the Demonstration
Effect in imitating the Developed world.
The figure above shows the trend of the middle income countries for the level of pollution
with increase in GDP per capita over time. The increasing trend in pollution with no
breaks and downward slope in growth rate of pollution can be described by the constant
struggle and competition with the developed world which leads to no sacrifice of economic
growth. These countries might turn to better sustainable methods of development only
after reaching a specific growth rate.
The project seemed to prove the already established relationship between income per
capita and energy consumption. Also the effect of different incomes has different effects on
the per energy consumption; the developed countries have high levels of energy
consumption to sync with their standard of living but the growth of energy consumption
remains constant because their energy levels have reached the maximum. But for the
developing and third world countries, their growth of energy consumption has been
tremendous but the level has been low because they are still struggling to reach a
minimum standard of living. Also as the level of incomes rise, the level of energy
consumption rises and so does their level of pollution. But the lower growth of energy
consumption does not mean lower levels of pollution for the developed world. These
countries shift their pollution production process to the developing world increasing their
pollution emissions. Therefore, we can never use the energy consumption by countries
and their pollution levels as a proxy of each other. The pollution relation with GDP per
capita can be best traced by the Kuznets Curve; upward sloping for the initial levels of
development and then a download slope as the highest levels of growth when the
countries can trade off a little growth for better future. The stricter environmental
regulations have led to a control over the growing pollution levels and hence a better
future for the citizens. So there has been a dilemma of whether the countries should
follow the path of economic growth or the path of sustainable development with benefits
accruing to the present as well as the future generations.
1. World Bank data on GDP per capita incomes, pollution levels and energy
2. Statistics for Europe energy consumption and share of renewable resources.
3. Types of pollution and information about Earth First.
4. Details of Kuznets Curve and its Origin.
5. Empirical research on Kuznets Curve.