Tropical Geography ›› 2020, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (1): 74-87.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003180

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Driving Force behind PM2.5 Pollution in Guangdong Province Based on the Interaction Effect of Institutional Background and Socioeconomic Activities

Huang Yongyuan1, Zhu Shengjun1(), Wang Shaojian2   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    2. Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Urbanization and Geo-simulation, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2019-04-18 Revised:2019-08-12 Online:2020-01-10 Published:2020-02-24
  • Contact: Zhu Shengjun


In recent years, the driving force behind PM2.5 concentrations has been extensively investigated. Most existing literature has focused on the socioeconomic impact factors that contribute to PM2.5 concentrations; however, the importance of institutional background is ignored. During the period of economic transformation, marketization, decentralization, and globalization were the three important institutional processes in China; these processes were considered as the key factors that contributed to pollution. Therefore, the existing literature separately focuses on the socioeconomic activities and institutional background. However, the interaction effect of these factors on air pollution remains understudied. Therefore, the interaction effect of socioeconomic activities and institutional background on PM2.5 pollution in Guangdong Province, which is the frontier of China’s economic reforms and transformation, must be investigated. Using the PM2.5 concentration data obtained from remote sensing images, spatial Markov chain analysis was performed herein using a spatial econometric model to analyze the spatial- temporal pattern of PM2.5 concentrations and its driving factors. Following results were obtained: 1) the PM2.5 concentrations in the Guangdong Province first increased and then decreased. Over the past 18 years, the PM2.5 concentrations have increased by an average of 55.47%. PM2.5 concentrations in the seven prefecture-level cities in the Pearl River Delta region were within the first-level standard of 35 μg/m 3 according to the Ambient Air Quality Standards. 2) The PM2.5 concentrations showed a spatial distribution structure circling around the Pearl River Estuary and presented a diffusion pattern, followed by concentrating spatial-temporal evolving trend whose variation core is situated in Foshan, Guangzhou, and Dongguan cities. Spatial Markov chain analysis result identified a spatial spillover effect of PM2.5 concentrations in Guangdong Province. If a region is adjacent to the regions with high PM2.5 concentrations, then the probability of PM2.5 concentrations increasing in that region will be high. However, if a region is adjacent to the regions with low PM2.5 concentrations, the probability of PM2.5 concentrations decreasing in that region will be high. 3) Based on the Spatial Lag Model, we examined the interaction effect of institutional background and socioeconomic activities on PM2.5 concentrations after controlling the spatial spillover effect. Empirical results indicate the existence of an environment Kuznets curve during the economic development in Guangdong Province. Overall, pollution-intensive industrial production is one of the most important factors promoting PM2.5 emissions; energy-related technological improvement can significantly lower the PM2.5 concentrations. Marketization has a positive relation with PM2.5 concentrations because the ratio of non-state owned industry rose remarkably and reached 96.8% in 2015; however, regions with a high degree of marketization can weaken the positive effects of industrial production on PM2.5 concentrations. The reason is that a better market order has more stringent environmental standards and requires enterprises to have higher resource-utilization efficiency, which enable to emit relatively few pollutants during the industrial production. Excessive amounts of PM2.5 pollutants can be generated via industrial production during decentralization and the PM2.5 discharge from pollution-intensive industrial production can be reduced because of the “race-to-the-bottom” effect. PM2.5 pollution was reduced because of the introduction of clean technologies during globalization. Based on environmental regulations and global market demands, PM2.5 concentration can be reduced by reducing industrial emissions and incentivizing technological progress.

Key words: PM2.5 pollution, spatial econometric model, institutional background, economic activity, spatial spillover effect, Guangdong Province

CLC Number: 

  • X513