CECP - Exploring regional impacts of climate policy in China

China has a unique opportunity to clean up CO₂ and local air pollution at the same time

All CO₂ policies deliver substantial reductions in CO₂ emissions (left panel) as well as energy-linked local air pollutants such as SO₂ and NOX, which reduce the formation of the harmful air pollutant PM2.5 (right panel).

CO₂ emissions, Mt
Population-weighted PM2.5 concentrations, μg/m³
All CO₂ policies halt the rise in air pollution—but complementary measures will be needed to meet near-term air quality targets

Increasing levels of climate policy stringency lead to ever greater reductions in local air pollution. However, additional complementary measures will be needed to meet China’s ambient air quality target of 35 µg/m³ by 2020. Only in the 5% scenario do PM2.5 levels approach this target, and this does not occur until a decade later, in 2030 (right panel).

A CO₂ price discourages reliance on any air pollution control measure that would inadvertently increase CO₂ emissions in the near term, for instance, by requiring CO₂-intensive energy to operate sulfur dioxide scrubbers on coal-fired power plants. Under these conditions, solutions that reduce fossil fuel use altogether will be preferred, including energy efficiency and deployment of non-fossil energy.