Academic profile


Prof. Ning Zhang serves as a Senior Departmental Fellow in the Department of Land Economy and a Senior Researcher at Darwin College at the University of Cambridge. Additionally, he holds the prestigious title of Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development at Shandong University, where he fulfills roles as both Director of the Institute of Blue and Green Development and Deputy Dean of the School of Advanced and Interdisciplinary Studies. His selection as the Distinguished Professor in Social Science for China's Ten-thousand Leading Talents Program is a testament to his standing in the field, further solidified by the Excellent Youth Foundation award from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. His scholarly contributions include over 150 papers in eminent journals such as Science, Nature, Nature’s Journals, Lancet Journals, and the Journal of Development Economics and ABS 4* journals. Prof. Zhang’s academic influence is recognized through his inclusion as a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher from 2020 to 2023, a ranking in World’s Top 2% Scientists by Stanford University for the same period, and a position in the top 5% of economists globally according to IDEAS/RePEc.

Prof. Zhang’s academic influence is marked by his significant contributions to sustainability policies in developing countries, keynote speeches at UNFCCC COP conferences, and his development of the 'gtfpch' STATA software package, which estimates green productivity for scholars and students in Environment and Development Economics. His editorial expertise is exercised as a board member for Technological Forecasting and Social Change (ABS 3*) and as an Associate Editor for the Social Science Journal and Energy, Ecology and Environment. He also guest-edits special journal issues and co-organizes the Sustainable Asia Conference.

In the realm of research funding, Dr. Zhang has led projects with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the National Key R&D Program of China, with collective grants amounting to approximately 10 million RMB Yuan. His co-PI roles in major national projects tackle pressing environmental and climate change challenges, influencing policy-making in ecology and environmental spheres. A respected voice in national policy discussions, as a member of the national policy discussion committee, he has submitted over ten policy proposals to the government, many of which have been integrated into policy-making.

Prof. Zhang holds esteemed positions as a Fellow at the TANDO Institute, a globally recognized think tank and consultancy, as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Fellow of Global Labor Organization (GLO)





Resource and Environmental Economics

Applied Econometrics



Research interests


Environmental and Development Economics; Resource and Energy Economics




Key publications:

  1. Zhang, N., Liu, Z., Zheng, X., Xue, J., 2017. Carbon footprint of China’s belt and road. Science, 357(6356): 1106-1107.
  2. Tian P., Feng K., Sun L., ...Zhang N*. Li J. 2024. Higher total energy costs strain the elderly, especially low-income, across 31 developed countries. PNAS, Vol. 121, No. 12, 121 (12) e2306771121.
  3. Wang, D.*, Zhang, P.*, Chen, S.*, Zhang, N.*, 2023. Adaptation to temperature extremes in Chinese agriculture, 1981 to 2010. Journal of Development Economics, 166, p.103196.
  4. Guan, D., Meng, J., David, R., Zhang, N.*, et al., 2018. The drivers of China’s carbon emission peak. Nature Geoscience, 11: 551-555.
  5. Wiedenhofer, D., Guan, D., Liu, Z., Meng, J., Zhang, N., Wei, Y., 2017. Unequal household carbon footprints in China. Nature Climate Change, 7(1): 75-80.
  6. Wei, W., Li, J., …, Zhang, N.*, et al., 2021. Embodied greenhouse gas emissions from building China’s large-scale power transmission infrastructure. Nature Sustainability, 4: 739-747.
  7. Liu, Z., …, Zhang, N., et al., 2020. Near-real-time monitoring of global CO2 emissions reveals the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Communications, 11: 5172.
  8. Li, J., Peng, K., …, Zhang, N.*, et al., 2020. Critical rare-earth elements mismatch global wind-power ambitions. One Earth-Cell press, 3(1): 116-125.
  9. Li, J., Zhou, S., …, Zhang, N., et al., 2020. China's retrofitting measures in coal-fired power plants bring significant mercury-related health benefits. One Earth-Cell press, 5(4): 392-402.
  10. Yang, F., …, Zhang, N., Li, J., 2022. Life cycle assessment shows that retrofitting coal-fired power plants with fuel cells will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One Earth-Cell Press, 5(4): 392-402.
  11. Yin, H., Brauer, M., …, Zhang, N., et al., 2021. Population ageing and deaths attributable to ambient PM2·5 pollution: a global analysis of economic cost. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(6): e356-e367.
  12. Hou, S., Zhao, X., …, Zhang, N.*, 2022. Spatial analysis connects excess water pollution discharge, industrial production, and consumption at the sectoral level. npj Clean Water, 5: 4.
  13. Yu, Y., Zhang, N.*, 2022. Environmental regulation and innovation: Evidence from China. Global Environment Change, 76: 102587.
  14. Tao Zhou, Zhang, N*.,2023. Does air pollution decrease labor share? Evidence from China. Global Environmental Change, 82, 2023, 102706
  15. Pan, D., Chen, H., Zhang, N.*, Kong, F., 2023. Do livestock environmental regulations reduce water pollution in China? Ecological Economics, 204: 107637.
  16. Gong, M., Zhang, N.*, 2023. Drivers of China's high-quality development: The role of intangible factors. Economic Modelling, 124: 106294.
  17. Zhang, H., Zhang, L., Zhang, N.*, 2023. When and Under What Conditions Does an Emission Trading Scheme Become Cost Effective? The Energy Journal, 45(2).
  18. Wan, L., Zhang, N.*, 2023. Earning reduction caused by air pollution: Evidence from China. China Economic Review, 79: 101984.
  19. Zhang, N., Zhao, Y., Wang, N., 2022. Is China's energy policy effective for power plants? Evidence from the 12th Five-Year Plan energy saving targets. Energy Economics, 112: 106143.
  20. Zhang, N., Huang, X., Qi, C., 2022. The effect of environmental regulation on the marginal abatement cost of industrial firms: Evidence from the 11th Five-Year Plan in China. Energy Economics, 112: 106147.
  21. Kong, X., …, Zhang, N.*, Li, J., 2022. Steel stocks and flows of global merchant fleets as material base of international trade from 1980 to 2050. Global Environmental Change, 73: 102493.
  22. Zhang, N., Gong, M.*, 2022. Economic and environmental outcomes of economic transition: Evidence from a quasi-experiment in China. Journal of Asian Economics, 80: 101483.
  23. Du, M., Liu, Y., Wang, B., Lee, M., Zhang, N.*, 2021. The sources of regulated productivity in Chinese power plants: An estimation of the restricted cost function combined with DEA approach. Energy Economics, 100: 105318.
  24. Yu, Y., Zhang, N.*, 2021. Low-carbon city pilot and carbon emission efficiency: Quasi-experimental evidence from China. Energy Economics, 96: 105125.
  25. Zhang, N., Ren, R., Zhang, Q., Zhang, T., 2020. Air pollution and tourism development: An interplay. Annals of Tourism Research, 85: 103032.
  26. Mendoze-Tinoco, D., …, Zhang, N., et al., 2020. Flood Footprint Assessment: A Multiregional Case of 2009 Central European Floods. Risk Analysis, 40(8): 1612-1631.
  27. Wei, X., Zhang, N.*, 2020. The shadow prices of CO2 and SO2 for Chinese Coal-fired Power Plants: A partial frontier approach. Energy Economics, 85: 104576.
  28. Wang, H., Zhou, P., Xie, B., Zhang, N., 2019. Assessing drivers of CO2 emissions in China's electricity sector: A metafrontier production-theoretical decomposition analysis. European Journal of Operational Research, 275(3): 1096-1107.
  29. Wu, T., Zhang, N.*, Gui, L, Wu, W., 2018. Sustainable endogenous growth model of multiple regions: Reconciling OR and economic perspectives. European Journal of Operational Research, 269(1): 218-226.
  30. Pan, D., Zhang, N.*, 2018. The Role of Agricultural Training on Fertilizer Use Knowledge: A Randomized Controlled Experiment. Ecological Economics, 148: 77-91.
  31. Chen, Z, Wanke, P., Antunes, J.J.M., Zhang, N., 2017. Chinese airline efficiency under CO2 emissions and flight delays: A stochastic network DEA model. Energy Economics, 68: 89-108.
  32. Liu, Y., Ji, Y., Shao, S., Zhong, F., Zhang, N., Chen, Y., 2017. Scale of Production, Agglomeration and Agricultural Pollutant Treatment: Evidence From a Survey in China. Ecological Economics, 140: 30-45.
  33. Du, L., Hanley, A., Zhang, N.*, 2016. Environmental technical efficiency, technology gap and shadow price of coal-fuelled power plants in China: A parametric meta-frontier analysis. Resources and Energy Economics, 43: 14-32.
  34. Zhang, N., Wang, B., 2015. A deterministic parametric metafrontier Luenberger indicator for measuring environmentally-sensitive productivity growth: A Korean fossil-fuel power case. Energy Economics, 51: 88-98.
  35. Zhang, N., Zhou, P., Kung, C., 2015. Total-factor carbon emission performance of the Chinese transportation industry: A bootstrapped non-radial Malmquist index analysis. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 41: 584-593.
  36. Choi, Y., Oh, D.-H., Zhang, N.*, 2015. Environmentally sensitive productivity growth and its decompositions in China: a metafrontier Malmquist–Luenberger productivity index approach. Empirical Economics, 49(3): 1017-1043.
  37. Zhang, N., Choi, Y., 2014. A note on the evolution of directional distance function and its development in energy and environmental studies 1997-2013. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 33: 50-59.
  38. Zhang, N., Kong, F., Choi, Y., 2014. Measuring sustainability performance for China: A sequential generalized directional distance function approach. Economic Modelling, 41: 392-397.
  39. Zhang, N., Choi, Y., 2013. Total-factor carbon emission performance of fossil fuel power plants in China: A metafrontier non-radial Malmquist index analysis. Energy Economics, 40: 549-559.
  40. Lee, M., Zhang, N., 2012. Technical efficiency, shadow price of carbon dioxide emissions, and substitutability for energy in the Chinese manufacturing industries. Energy Economics, 34(5): 1492-1497.


Current PhD students


Tao Zhou; Maoyu Gong; Tianzhen Zhao; Yu Zhao; Shuo Wang; Wenqiang Wang



Recent PhD students


Guanglai Zhang; Weijie Zhang; Qingjun Liu





Environmental and Energy economics; Sustainable Development