Monday, 7 January 2008

Measuring Green Productivity

A recent paper published in the Asian Economic Journal (average quality journal) looks at green productivity in Chinese manufacturing. The results are not particularly surprising but it is useful to take externalities into account when considering China's consistently high growth rates of above 10%.

Weak environmental enforcement is, as always, important.

Measuring Green Productivity Growth for China's Manufacturing Sectors: 1991–2000*

Jing Cao
School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Over the past two decades, China has sustained rapid economic growth of 8–10 percent, part of which is attributed to the positive total factor productivity (TFP) growth. However, this extraordinary economic performance has been accompanied by severe environmental pollution and associated health damage. The conventional TFP method is biased in interpreting the progress of technology change because it does not consider non-marketable residues, such as environmental pollution, and, hence, efficiency improvements in terms of pollution abatement technology and environmentally friendly management are ignored. This bias might direct our attention to less efficient use of environmental friendly abatement technologies or send wrong signals to policy-makers. To address this issue, the present paper applies a modified welfare-based green TFP approach, treating environmental damage as non-desirable (negative) residual output. Therefore, environmental efficiency is taken into account to accurately interpret technological progress from a social welfare point of view. Based on a national time-series input–output table, historical capital and labor input data for China and sectoral level air pollution emission data from 1991 to 2000, the empirical results suggest that with increasingly stringent environmental regulations, many pollution intensive sectors, such as electricity, primary metal and chemical industries, improved their environmental efficiency in the late 1990s. However, because of the weak environmental regulations in construction and transportation, and in sectors primarily composed of small private or township and village industrial enterprises, firms within these industries contributed to increasing environmental degradation.

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