China has surged ahead of the rest of the world in material consumption, which has created intense pressure on the country's environment, according to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Friday.
The UNEP released the report "Resource Efficiency: Economics and Outlook for China" on Friday during a two-day international forum held in the city of Ordos in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
According to the report, China has become the world's largest consumer of primary materials, including minerals, metal ore, fossil fuels and biomass, with domestic material consumption levels four times that of the United States.
From 1970 to 2008, China's per capita consumption of materials grew from one-third to over one-and-a-half times global average levels.
The report said massive investment in urban infrastructure and manufacturing have caused the domestic per capita consumption of natural resources to increase at almost twice the rate of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.
Urbanization and infrastructure have driven the consumption of minerals for use in construction and metal ore, while increased fossil fuel consumption has contributed to China's rising carbon dioxide emissions, the report said.
China's emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of economic output are four times the global average and twice that of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, the report said.
China has seen dramatic growth in past decades and the effect of its transition on global demand for natural resources is unprecedented, said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.
Steiner said China's growth has come with rising environmental challenges.
The report said China, as well as other emerging economies, needs to make significant investment in more resource-efficient infrastructure.
Although the country is facing serious challenges, it also remains among the most successful in the world in improving resource efficiency, the report noted.
The Chinese government has tried to shift to more balanced growth in recent years, as well as worked to improve resource and energy efficiency.
China was one of the first countries to embrace the circular economy approach as a new paradigm for economic and industrial development. In 2009, the circular economy promotion law was promulgated and put into force in order to improve resource efficiency, protect the environment and achieve sustainable development.
According to another UNEP-backed study released earlier this year, China invested 67 billion U.S. dollars in the renewable energy market in 2012, up 22 percent from last year, which consolidated its position as the world's dominant renewable energy market player.