Exploring Environmental Kuznets Curves of Kitakyushu: 50-year Time-series Data of the OECD SDGs Pilot City


Can green growth policies help protect the environment while keeping the industry growing and infrastructure expanding? The City of Kitakyushu, Japan, has actively implemented eco-friendly policies since 1967 and recently inspired the pursuit of sustainable development around the world, especially in the Global South region. However, empirical studies on the effects of green growth policies are still lacking. This study explores the relationship between road infrastructure development and average industrial firm size with air pollution in the city through the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis. Auto-Regressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) and Non-linear Auto-Regressive Distributed Lag (NARDL) methods were applied on nearly 50-years’ time series data, from 1967 to 2015. The results show that the shape of the EKC of industrial growth, measured by average firm size, depends on the type of air pollution: inverted N-shaped relationships with NO2 and CO, and the U-shaped relationships with falling dust particle and Ox. Regarding infrastructure development, on the one hand, our analysis shows a positive effect of road construction on alleviating the amount of falling dust and CO concentration. On the other hand, the emissions of NO2 and Ox are shown to rise when plotted against road construction. The decline of CO emission, when plotted against both industrial growth and road development, indicates that the ruthlessness of the local government in pursuing green growth policies is effective in this case. However, the story is not straightforward when it comes to other air pollutants, which hint at limits in the current policies. The case of Kitakyushu illustrates the complex dynamics of the interaction among policy, industry, infrastructure, and air pollution. It can serve as an important reference point for other cities in the Global South when policies are formed, and progress is measured in the pursuit of a green economy. Finally, as an OECD SDGs pilot city and the leading Asian green-growth city, policymakers in Kitakyushu city are recommended to revise the data policy to enhance the findability and interoperability of data as well as to invest in the application of big data.

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