"A new Paulson Institute paper argues that China should tackle air pollution and climate change at the same time, for the sake of economic efficiency—and the health of the planet. In “Double Impact: Why China Needs Coordinated Air Quality and Climate Strategies,” MIT’s Valerie Karplus makes these points:
- Current air pollution strategies lead to perverse results. Because it’s cheaper to use coal scrubbers (pollution control devices that remove sulfur dioxides) at coal-fired plants than it is to switch over to renewable fuels, there is little incentive to stop using coal.
- Coal scrubbing does next to nothing to reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, air pollution controls—such as scrubbers—actually may be exacerbating climate issues resulting from carbon emissions.
- Cleanup equipment use could actually increase CO2 emissions. If scrubber equipment is powered by coal-based energy, then it could increase CO2 emissions even as air quality improves. Such air pollution mitigation would lock in continued reliance on a carbon-intensive fuel.
- A price on carbon emissions would incentivize a reduction in coal use. It will also reduce the extent of end-of-pipe air pollution controls needed to achieve air quality goals.
- Putting a price on carbon emissions would help China achieve its climate goals. An emissions trading system or tax would be the best way to translate China’s climate pledge into clear, price-based incentives to decarbonize the economy through 2030 and beyond."
2/25/15, "Double Impact: Why China Needs Coordinated Air Quality and Climate Strategies,", paulsoninstitute.org
"MIT's Valerie Karplus makes the case for establishing a national CO2 price in China as soon as possible."
"Written by Valerie Karplus, an Assistant Professor in the Global Economics and Management Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Director of the MIT-Tsinghua China Energy and Climate Project, this paper examines China’s current approach to tackling air pollution and carbon mitigation nationally and argues that more incentives are needed if China hopes to meet its “peak carbon” goal by 2030.
The urgency with which Beijing is tackling air pollution is certainly positive, and such actions will lead to concomitant benefits in curtailing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, to a certain extent. But Karplus argues that it would be a mistake to view the current initiatives on air pollution, which are primarily aimed at scrubbing coal-related pollutants or reducing coal use, as perfectly aligned with carbon reduction.
This is not the case, according to Karplus. Air pollution reduction is only partly aligned with CO2 reduction, and vice versa. In addition to air pollution efforts, effective co-control requires a more significant step: a meaningful price on carbon. This is especially so if Beijing is to realize its 2030 pledge. Put another way, air pollution control efforts, while essential, will only take China part of the way toward its stated carbon reduction goals.
One major reason is because while low-cost solutions for air pollution and carbon reduction can overlap, the reality is that co-benefits run out after low-cost opportunities to reduce or displace the fuels responsible for both carbon and air pollution emissions—mostly coal in China’s case—are exhausted. In other words, co-benefits diminish over time as greater reductions are needed, according to Karplus."
With offices in the United States and China, and partners around the globe, we take a “think and do” approach. Our mission is to advance global environmental protection and sustainable economic growth in the United States and China, while fostering broader understanding between the two countries.
The Institute was founded in 2011 by Henry M. Paulson, Jr., the 74th Secretary of the Treasury and former chief executive of Goldman Sachs to promote economic growth and environmental preservation in both countries through programs, advocacy and research."