Controls could lead to increased pollution outside China's capital region

April 24, 2019

China's ambitious pollution control policies centered on its capital-area cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei could increase air pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, and water consumption outside this target region, according to new modeling by Delin Fang and colleagues. Their work shows that the strong push to reduce air pollution in the capital region has unintended spillover effects on neighboring provinces. China's regional pollution policies have been enacted in response to health trends following the country's intense economic development, which has been buoyed by a massive increase in exports and a coal-intensive energy plan. The result has been an increase in pollution emissions that accounts for one in six premature deaths in China, mostly from heart and lung disease. By focusing on emission reduction in the capital cities, however, the policies have pushed polluting industries to other nearby regions that have less efficient technologies and often lower environmental standards. The models project that the increase in harmful pollution particle emissions outside the capital will be 1.6 times the reduction in the capital region, that carbon dioxide emissions will be 3.6 times higher in regions beyond the capital cities, and that water consumption will be 2.9 times higher outside the capital cities--all as a result of the capital cities' pollution reduction policies. The increase in pollutants could also find its way back toward the capital region, transported through the atmosphere.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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