Although low-carbon development of transportation sector is crucial for global deep decarbonization, the multidimensional characteristics (e.g., inequality, complex network and efficiency-related drivers) carbon intensity (CI) in the sector at sub-national level is still lacking in-depth evaluation for an emerging economy in particular. Here, using social network analysis, inequality decomposition and production-theoretical decomposition analysis with a focus on regional heterogeneity, the study comprehensively investigated the complex network, inequality and novel drivers related to efficiency and technological change of CI for transportation sectors across 30 provinces in China over 1997–2019. We found that first, the strict spatial correlation structure of CI in the transportation sector was gradually broken and the inter-provincial correlation were enhanced. Second, the inequality of CI declined where gasoline, diesel oil, kerosene and raw coal were the main contributors. Third, the potential carbon factor mainly promoted the reduction of CI while the impact of potential energy intensity exhibited an "inverted U″ trend over the period. Forth, the group technical change effects of energy usage and CO2 emission first promoted the decline of CI and then inhibited it. The study highlights the importance of the multidimensional characteristics in the transportation sector when formulating CI-related policies according to the local conditions.
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- Carbon intensity
- Complex network
- Production-theoretical decomposition analysis