Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Chinese Version)


material flow analysis; socio-economic metabolism; resource efficiency; in-use stock; sustainable development goals (SDGs)

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A systematic understanding of the interactions between the socio-economic and natural environment systems could provide a dashboard of quantitative system indicators for monitoring the socio-metabolic transition towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Based on the mass balance principle and life cycle thinking, material flow analysis and socioeconomic metabolism (SEM) analysis serves as a paradigm for studying the biophysical basis of human societies, including particularly (i) relationship between material stocks and flows, (ii) trade flows of resources, products, and embodied environmental impacts, and (iii) linkages between multiple material cycles. The SEM results could help inform sustainable development strategies and smooth the implementation of green economy, circular economy, and low-carbon economy policies. Here, we laid out a generic framework for the SEM analysis and put SEM into context by exemplifying SEM applications in different regions, sectors, and resources and illustrating how the SEM analysis could inform policy makers in tackling resource, energy, and climate challenges in the long-term socio-metabolic transition. In the end, we proposed a few concrete suggestions for promoting SEM analysis regarding both methodology development and practical applications in China.

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Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences


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