The latest co-authorship of Haikun Wang's team unveils the air quality and health co-benefits of China's early carbon peak


On Feb 23, 2022, Nature Communications published online a paper titled “Air quality and health co-benefits of China’s carbon dioxide emissions peaking before 2030”, which was co-authored by Professor Haikun Wang’s group. The study systematically assesses the synergistic effects of China's climate policy on improving air quality and population health under different future socio-economic development pathways, and provides the first quantitative analysis of the potential health benefits of China's carbon emissions peaking before 2030.

China has always been actively committed to carbon reduction and has set a target of achieving carbon peaking ahead of 2030. Climate change mitigation measures can achieve synergistic reductions in atmospheric pollutants and bring significant environmental health benefits. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of climate policies is vital to enhancing the international community's confidence in addressing climate change and promoting global partnerships on it.

By integrating methods and data from policy scenario analysis, air quality modelling, health risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, the team focuses on carbon dioxide emissions and assesses the carbon emissions under different climate policy pathways and their synergistic effects on improving air quality and health from two dimensions: socio-economic development and climate policy ambition. The study found that an early peak before 2030 in line with the 1.5 °C target could avoid ~118,000 and ~614,000 PM2.5 attributable deaths under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 1 (SSP1), in 2030 and 2050, respectively. The more stringent the climate policy, the greater the health synergies, and the more pronounced the long-term synergies of climate policy would be. The study further points out that the synergy of climate policies alone would not be sufficient to achieve the Beautiful China air quality goal by 2050 or to offset the rise in PM2.5-related deaths due to the ageing trend, and that China still needs to continue to enhance its air pollution prevention and control efforts to effectively protect public health.

Professor Haikun Wang is the corresponding author of this paper, and graduate student Rong Tang and Jing Zhao (now at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, Ministry of Ecology and Environment) are co-first authors. Prof. Aijun Ding, Prof. Xin Huang, Prof. Yanxu Zhang from the School of Atmospheric Sciences, NJU and Chris P. Nielsen, Executive Director of Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy and Environment, Harvard University are co-authors. This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFA0600204), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71974092), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (0207-14380055, 0207-14380174), the Frontiers Science Center for Critical Earth Material Cycling, Nanjing University and an award to the Harvard–China Project on Energy, Economy and Environment from the Harvard Global Institute.

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Fig. 1: Years of peak carbon emissions and the carbon intensity in both peak years and 2030 for all nine scenarios. 

The two dashed lines represent China’s NDC targets of peak year of 2030 and carbon intensity by 2030.


Fig. 2: China’s PM2.5-attributable mortality and that prevented by climate policies under the SSP1 pathway.

ab Difference of PM2.5-attributable mortality with different climate mitigation targets under the SSP1 pathway in 2030: REF-RCP2.6 and RCP2.6-RCP1.9, respectively. cd the same as (ab) but in 2050.

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