Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Rong Ma, and Fei Teng. 2021. “When carbon emission trading meets a regulated industry: Evidence from the electricity sector of China.” Journal for Public Economics, 200, August 2021, Pp. 104470. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper provides retrospective firm-level evidence on the effectiveness of China’s carbon market pilots in reducing emissions in the electricity sector. We show that the carbon emission trading system (ETS) has no effect on changing coal efficiency of regulated coal- fired power plants. Although we find a significant reduction in coal consumption associated with ETS participation, this reduction was achieved by reducing electricity production. The output contraction in the treated plants is not due to their optimizing behavior but is likely driven by government decisions, because the impacts of emission permits on marginal costs are small relative to the controlled electricity prices and the reduction is associated with financial losses. In addition, we find no evidence of carbon leakage to other provinces, but a significant increase in the production of non-coal-fired power plants in the ETS regions. 
2021 Apr 07

Decarbonization Pathways of China’s Power Sector

10:00am to 11:15am


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A Harvard-China Project Research Seminar with Li Zheng, Executive Vice President of the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University; Professor, Department of Energy and Power Engineering, Tsinghua University

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March 11, 2021

HCP Publications: The Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy and Environment, based at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, works with colleagues across Harvard and partner institutions in China to...

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Jinzhao Yang, Yu Zhao, Jing Cao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2021. “Co-benefits of carbon and pollution control policies on air quality and health till 2030 in China.” Environment International, 152, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Facing the dual challenges of climate change and air pollution, China has made great efforts to explore the co-control strategies for the both. We assessed the benefits of carbon and pollution control policies on air quality and human health, with an integrated framework combining an energy-economic model, an air quality model and a concentration–response model. With a base year 2015, seven combined scenarios were developed for 2030 based on three energy scenarios and three end-of-pipe control ones. Policy-specific benefits were then evaluated, indicated by the reduced emissions, surface concentrations of major pollutants, and premature deaths between scenarios. Compared to the 2030 baseline scenario, the nationwide PM2.5- and O3-related mortality was expected to decline 23% or 289 (95% confidence interval: 220–360) thousand in the most stringent scenario, and three quarters of the avoided deaths were attributed to the end-of-pipe control measures. Provinces in heavily polluted and densely populated regions would benefit more from carbon and pollution control strategies. The population fractions with PM2.5 exposure under the national air quality standard (35 μg/m3) and WHO guideline (10 μg/m3) would be doubled from 2015 to 2030 (the most stringent scenario), while still very few people would live in areas with the WHO guideline achieved for O3 (100 μg/m3). Increased health impact of O3 suggested a great significance of joint control of PM2.5 and O3 in future policy-making.
Meng Gao, Zirui Liu, Bo Zheng, Dongsheng Ji, Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Jinyuan Xin, Cheng Liu, Yuesi Wang, Qiang Zhang, Jia Xing, Jingkun Jiang, Zifa Wang, Gregory R. Carmichael, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “China's emission control strategies have suppressed unfavorable influences of climate on wintertime PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing since 2002.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 3, Pp. 1497–1505. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Severe wintertime PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been receiving increasing worldwide attention, yet the decadal variations remain relatively unexplored. Combining field measurements and model simulations, we quantified the relative influences of anthropogenic emissions and meteorological conditions on PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing over the winters of 2002–2016. Between the winters of 2011 and 2016, stringent emission control measures resulted in a 21 % decrease in mean mass concentrations of PM2.5 in Beijing, with 7 fewer haze days per winter on average. Given the overestimation of PM2.5 by the model, the effectiveness of stringent emission control measures might have been slightly overstated. With fixed emissions, meteorological conditions over the study period would have led to an increase in haze in Beijing, but the strict emission control measures have suppressed the unfavorable influences of the recent climate. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are attributed to the weakening of the East Asia winter monsoon associated particularly with an increase in pressure associated with the Aleutian Low.
Haikun Wang, Xiaojing He, Xinyu Liang, Ernani F. Choma, Yifan Liu, Li Shan, Haotian Zheng, Shaojun Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen, Shuxiao Wang, Ye Wu, and John S. Evans. 2020. “Health benefits of on-road transportation pollution control programs in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 2020, 201921271. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China started to implement comprehensive measures to mitigate traffic pollution at the end of 1990s, but the comprehensive effects, especially on ambient air quality and public health, have not yet been systematically evaluated. In this study, we analyze the effects of vehicle emission control measures on ambient air pollution and associated deaths attributable to long-term exposures of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and O3 based on an integrated research framework that combines scenario analysis, air quality modeling, and population health risk assessment. We find that the total impact of these control measures was substantial. Vehicular emissions during 1998–2015 would have been 2–3 times as large as they actually were, had those measures not been implemented. The national population-weighted annual average concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 in 2015 would have been higher by 11.7 μg/m3 and 8.3 parts per billion, respectively, and the number of deaths attributable to 2015 air pollution would have been higher by 510 thousand (95% confidence interval: 360 thousand to 730 thousand) without these controls. Our analysis shows a concentration of mortality impacts in densely populated urban areas, motivating local policymakers to design stringent vehicle emission control policies. The results imply that vehicle emission control will require policy designs that are more multifaceted than traditional controls, primarily represented by the strict emission standards, with careful consideration of the challenges in coordinated mitigation of both PM2.5 and O3 in different regions, to sustain improvement in air quality and public health given continuing swift growth in China’s vehicle population.
Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Pietro Bartocci, Francesco Fantozzi, Ondřej Mašek, Foster Agblevor, Zhiyu Wei, Haiping Yang, Hanping Chen, Xi Lu, Guoqing Chen, Chuguang Zheng, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Prospective contributions of biomass pyrolysis to China’s 2050 carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.” Nature Communications. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deployment of negative emission technologies needs to start immediately if we are to avoid overshooting international carbon targets, reduce negative climate impacts, and minimize costs of emission mitigation. Actions in China, given its importance for the global anthropogenic carbon budget, can be decisive. While bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) may need years to mature, this study focuses on developing a ready-to-implement biomass intermediate pyrolysis poly-generation (BIPP) technology to produce a potentially stable form of biochar, a medium for carbon storage, and to provide a significant source of valuable biofuels, especially pyrolysis gas. Combining the experimental data with hybrid models, the results show that a BIPP system can be profitable without subsidies: its national deployment could contribute to a 68% reduction of carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 compared to 2005 and could result additionally in a reduction in air pollutant emissions. With 73% of national crop residues converted to biochar and other biofuels in the near term (2020 to 2030), the cumulative greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction could reach up to 5653 Mt CO2-eq by 2050, which could contribute 9-20% of the global GHG emission reduction goal for BECCS (28-65 Gt CO2-eq in IPCC’s 1.5 °C pathway), and nearly 2633 Mt more than that projected for BECCS alone. The national BIPP development strategy is developed on a provincial scale based on a regional economic and life-cycle analysis.