The Impact of Local Government Competition and Green Technology Innovation on Economic Low-Carbon Transition: New Insights from China


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It’s no secret that carbon emissions linked to energy are rebounding rapidly as the world economy recovers from the effects of COVID-19. In fact, China is estimated to contribute over 11.9 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2021, making up 33% of the global total. This alarming statistic has prompted the Chinese government to introduce ambitious goals of “carbon peak” by 2030 and “carbon neutral” by 2060. In the pursuit of these goals, the low-carbon transition and high-quality development of the economy have become crucial.

Green technology innovation has emerged as a vital driver of economic low-carbon transition. It encompasses processes and technologies that minimize energy and resource consumption while reducing environmental pollution. By focusing on resource conservation and environmental protection, green technology innovation enhances resource and energy utilization efficiency. Its application in both enterprises and individual households promotes clean production and green consumption, thereby facilitating an economic low-carbon transition. Moreover, green technology innovation in the energy sector plays a pivotal role in reducing the consumption of traditional energy sources and shifting the energy consumption structure towards low-carbon and clean energy.

Local government support is instrumental in enhancing the level of green technology innovation and intensifying innovation capacity. The Chinese government plays a pivotal role in regional economic and social development, allocating resources and guiding industrial transition through policy formulation, tax relief, and financial support. The competitive behavior and intensity of local governments influence the development of green technology innovation, which, in turn, affects economic low-carbon transition. Local officials, driven by the incentive of economic performance, may prioritize short-term economic growth over long-term investment in green technology innovation. Conversely, as political incentives gradually shift towards eco-efficiency, local governments are increasingly vying for green technology innovations that yield environmental benefits. This competition fosters innovation-driven development strategies, ultimately enhancing green technology innovation performance.

The impact of green technology innovation on economic low-carbon transition is of great significance, considering China’s role as a global practitioner in ecological civilization. However, as different regions in China have distinct natural characteristics, socio-development levels, and economic bases, the role of green technology innovation in economic low-carbon transition varies across areas. Additionally, local government competition in the market economy significantly influences economic low-carbon transition. To address these nuances and contribute to the development of low-carbon transition in economies similar to China, this paper systematically explores the nexus between green technology innovation and economic low-carbon transition, focusing on the perspective of local government competition.

Literature Review

Previous studies have individually examined the relationship between local government competition, green technology innovation, and economic low-carbon transition. However, this paper takes a more integrated approach by incorporating all three factors into one analytical framework. By doing so, we generate empirical evidence for a low-carbon transition in China. Additionally, we evaluate the influence of green technology innovation on economic low-carbon transition in different areas, considering regional heterogeneity. This targeted approach enables us to identify an appropriate path for low-carbon governance. To quantitatively evaluate these associations, we employ the system generalized method of moments (SYS-GMM), panel threshold model, and geographically weighted regression on a dataset spanning from 2006 to 2019, encompassing 30 provincial administrative areas in China.

Methodology and Data

The methodology used in this study includes the system generalized method of moments (SYS-GMM), panel threshold model, and geographically weighted regression. These quantitative methods allow for a comprehensive evaluation of the associations between green technology innovation, local government competition, and economic low-carbon transition. The dataset used for analysis spans over a period of 14 years, covering 30 provincial administrative areas in China.

Results and Discussion

The study’s results provide valuable insights into the relationship between local government competition, green technology innovation, and economic low-carbon transition. By examining regional heterogeneity, we gain a better understanding of the diverse factors influencing low-carbon governance. The detailed discussion of the results sheds light on how local government competition can be adjusted and green technology innovation effectively utilized to promote economic low-carbon transition.

Recommendations and Conclusion

In conclusion, this study highlights the crucial role of green technology innovation and local government competition in achieving economic low-carbon transition. By incorporating these factors into an integrated analytical framework and considering regional heterogeneity, we provide valuable empirical evidence and insights for low-carbon governance in China and similar economies. Moving forward, it is essential to continue exploring innovative approaches to address energy and environmental constraints and fulfill the “double carbon” goal.

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