The role of tertiary education on CO2 emissions: evidence from 151 countries

Hanbee Lee, Chaneum Park, Haeil Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the relationship between tertiary education and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita based on the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) framework. Growing concerns over environmental degradation linked with economic development have ignited a debate on the specific conditions under which economic prosperity and environmental preservation can be attained at the same time. In this regard, the role of education has been widely explored, but existing literature on the EKC model has been inconclusive. Using the data from 151 countries from 1991 to 2019, this study aims to empirically test if tertiary education alleviates environmental degradation, i.e., whether tertiary education contributes to the downslope of the EKC for CO2 emissions. Our empirical findings reaffirm the EKC and suggest that tertiary education contributes to decreasing CO2 emissions per capita in countries with higher GDP per capita. Thus, tertiary education seems to be one of the keys to explaining the inverse u-shape of the EKC. The policy implications of this research are twofold. First, global efforts to alleviate environmental problems can be buttressed indirectly by basic social policies such as tertiary education promotion. Second, the implementation of a domestic environmental policy could be effective when intertwined with tertiary education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2024.


  • CO emissions
  • Economic development
  • Environmental Kuznets curve
  • Tertiary education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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