China is introducing a national carbon emission trading system (ETS), with details yet to be finalized. The ETS is expected to cover only the major emitters but it is often argued that a more comprehensive system will achieve the emission goals at lower cost. We first examine an ETS that covers both electricity and cement sectors and consider an ambitious cap starting in 2017 that will meet the official objective to reduce the carbon-GDP intensity by 60-65% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The two ETS-covered industries are compensated with an output-based subsidy to represent the intention to give free permits to the covered enterprises. We then consider a hybrid system where the non-ETS sectors pay a carbon tax and share in the CO2 reduction burden. Our simulations indicate that hybrid systems will achieve the same CO2 goals with lower permit prices and GDP losses. We also show how auctioning of the permits improves the efficiency of the ETS and the hybrid systems. Finally, we find that these CO2 control policies are progressive in that higher incomes households bear a bigger burden.
Based on econometric estimation using data from the Chinese Urban Household Survey, we develop a preferred forecast range of 85–143 percent growth in residential per capita electricity demand over 2009–2025. Our analysis suggests that per capita income growth drives a 43% increase, with the remainder due to an unexplained time trend. Roughly one-third of the income-driven demand comes from increases in the stock of specific major appliances, particularly AC units. The other two-thirds comes from non-specific sources of income-driven growth and is based on an estimated income elasticity that falls from 0.28 to 0.11 as income rises. While the stock of refrigerators is not projected to increase, we find that they contribute nearly 20 percent of household electricity demand. Alternative plausible time trend assumptions are responsible for the wide range of 85–143 percent. Meanwhile we estimate a price elasticity of demand of −0.7. These estimates point to carbon pricing and appliance efficiency policies that could substantially reduce demand.
The continuous entry of new firms and exit of old ones might have substantial effects on productivity of energy supply. Since China is the world’s largest energy producer, productivity of energy supply in China is a significant issue, which affects sustainability. As a technical application, this paper investigates the productivity and dynamic changes of Chinese coal mining firms. We find that the total factor productivity (TFP) growth of coal supply in China is largely lagging behind the growth rate of coal production. The entry and exit of non-state-owned enterprise (non-SOE) partially provide explanation for the dynamic change of aggregate TFP. Specifically, non-state owned entrants induced by the coal price boom after 2003, which had negative effects on TFP of energy supply, while the exit of non-SOEs had positive effects. Furthermore, there is regional heterogeneity concerning the effects of entry and exit on energy supply productivity. More entrants induced by coal price boom are concentrated in non-main production region (non-MPR), while more exits are located in MPR due to the government’s enforcement. This provides explanation for the phenomena that productivity of energy supply in MPR gradually surpasses that in non-MPR. We also anticipate our paper to enhance understanding on the energy supply-side, which might further help us make informed decisions on energy planning and environmental policies.
The rebound effect, or the response to energy efficiency improvement, has drawn considerable attention from economists and policymakers. However, the magnitude remains quite controversial because of the differences in the definitions and methods being used. Originating from the definition of direct rebound effect, we develop an improved approach incorporating energy efficiency. The main advantages of the proposed approach are twofold. First, it enables us to estimate the demand elasticity of useful energy service with respect to energy service price. The estimates are more consistent with the definition of rebound effect and are more effective. Second, it decomposes direct rebound effect into substitution and output channels, enabling us to further understand the microeconomic mechanisms. Applying this method, we assess the direct energy rebound effect in China’s industrial sectors. We find that the direct rebound effect for the industry is 37.0%, and the substitution and output channels contribute to 13.1% and 23.9%, respectively. Substantial variations in the magnitudes and mechanisms occur by sector. For heavy industry, most energy rebound is induced by output expansion because of its sizeable cost decrease from efficiency improvements. Unlike heavy industry, most energy rebound in light industry comes from substituting energy service for other inputs because firms in light industry are more flexible in adjusting production inputs. Our results provide evidences for the importance of energy efficiency measures, and highlight the necessity of differentiated measures according to the sectoral characteristics.
We estimate the marginal rate of substitution of income for reduction in current annual mortality risk (the “value per statistical life” or VSL) using stated-preference surveys administered to independent samples of the general population of Chengdu, China in 2005 and 2016. We evaluate the quality of estimates by the theoretical criteria that willingness to pay (WTP) for risk reduction should be strictly positive and nearly proportional to the magnitude of the risk reduction (evaluated by comparing answers between respondents) and test the effect of excluding respondents whose answers violate these criteria. For subsamples of respondents that satisfy the criteria, point estimates of the sensitivity of WTP to risk reduction are consistent with theory and yield estimates of VSL that are two to three times larger than estimated using the full samples. Between 2005 and 2016, estimated VSL increased sharply, from about 22,000 USD in 2005 to 550,000 USD in 2016. Income also increased substantially over this period. Attributing the change in VSL solely to the change in real income implies an income elasticity of about 3.0. Our results suggest that estimates of VSL from stated-preference studies in which WTP is not close to proportionate to the stated risk reduction may be biased downward by a factor of two or more, and that VSL is likely to grow rapidly in a population with strong economic growth, which implies that environmental-health, safety, and other policies should become increasingly protective.
Consumption demands are final drivers for the extraction and allocation of natural resources. This paper investigates demand-driven natural resource requirements and spatial outsourcing within China in 2012 by using the latest multi-regional input-output model. Exergy is adopted as a common metric for natural resources input. The total domestic resource exergy requirements amounted to 125.5 EJ, of which the eastern area contributed the largest share of 44.5%, followed by the western area (23.9%), the central area (23.0%) and the northeastern area (8.6%). Investment was the leading final demand category, accounting for 52.9% (66.4 EJ) of national total embodied resource use (ERU). The total trade volumes of embodied resource were equivalent to 69.6% of the total direct resource input (DRI), mostly transferred from the central and western regions such as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Xinjiang to the eastern regions such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shanghai. The northeastern and eastern areas had physical net imports of 1213.5 PJ and 38452.6 PJ, while the central and western inland areas had physical net exports of 6364.5 PJ and 33301.5 PJ, respectively. Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong had prominent ERUs which respectively were 101.6, 12.6, 11.7, 8.4 and 4.3 times of their DRIs. The ERUs of Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Ningxia and Guizhou were equal to only 17.6%, 25.3%, 27.9%, 46.0% and 50.2% of their DRIs, respectively. Regional uneven development resulted in imbalanced resource requirements across China. The findings can provide a deep understanding of China's resource-driven economic development mode, and contribute to reducing regional resource footprints and their environment outcomes under the “new normal economy”.
China has set a goal of reducing its CO2 intensity of GDP by 60–65% from the 2005 level in 2030 as its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. While the government is considering series of market and nonmarket measures to achieve its target, this study assesses the economic consequences if the target were to meet through a market mechanism, carbon tax. We used a dynamic computable general equilibrium model of China for the analysis. The study shows that the level of carbon tax to achieve the NDC target would be different depending on its design features. An increasing carbon tax that starts at a small rate in 2015 and rises to a level to meet the NDC target in 2030 would cause smaller GDP loss than the carbon tax with a constant rate would do. The GDP loss due to the carbon tax would be smaller when the tax revenue is utilized to cut existing distortionary taxes than when it is transferred to households as a lump-sum rebate.
An environmental fiscal reform (EFR) represents a transition of a taxation system toward one based in environmental taxation, rather than on taxation of capital, labor, or consumption. It differs from an environmental tax reform (ETR) in that an EFR also includes a reform of subsidies which counteract environmental policy. This research details different ways in which an EFR is not only possible but also a good option that provides economic and environmental benefits. We have developed a detailed dynamic CGE model examining 101 industries and commodities in Spain, with an energy and an environmental extension comprising 31 pollutant emissions, in order to simulate the economic and environmental effects of an EFR. The reform focuses on 39 industries related to the energy, water, transport and waste sectors. We simulate an increase in taxes and a reduction on subsidies for these industries and at the same time we use new revenues to reduce labor, capital and consumption taxes. All revenue recycling options provide both economic and environmental benefits, suggesting that the “double dividend” hypothesis can be achieved. After three to four years after implementing an EFR, GDP is higher than the base case, hydrocarbons consumption declines and all analyzed pollutants show a reduction.
We explore how water pollution policy reforms in China could reduce industrial wastewater pollution with minimum adverse impact on GDP growth. We use a multi-sector dynamic Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model, jointly developed by Harvard University and Tsinghua University, to examine the long-term impact of pollution taxes. A firm-level dataset of wastewater and COD discharge is compiled and aggregated to provide COD-intensities for 22 industrial sectors. We simulated the impact of 4 different sets of Pigovian taxes on the output of these industrial sectors, where the tax rate depends on the COD-output intensity. In the baseline low rate of COD tax, COD discharge is projected to rise from 36 million tons in 2018 to 48 million in 2030, while GDP grows at 6.9% per year. We find that raising the COD tax by 8 times will lower COD discharge by 1.6% by 2030, while a high 20-times tax will cut it by 4.0%. The most COD-intensive sectors—textile goods, apparel, and food products—have the biggest reduction in output and emissions. The additional tax revenue is recycled by cutting existing taxes, including taxes on profits, leading to higher investment. This shift from consumption to investment leads to a slightly higher GDP over time.
Reliable inventory information is critical in informing emission mitigation efforts. Using the latest officially released emission data, which is production based, we take a consumption perspective to estimate the non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for China in 2012. The non-CO2 GHG emissions, which cover CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, amounted to 2003.0 Mt. CO2-eq (including 1871.9 Mt. CO2-eq from economic activities), much larger than the total CO2 emissions in some developed countries. Urban consumption (30.1%), capital formation (28.2%), and exports (20.6%) derived approximately four fifths of the total embodied emissions in final demand. Furthermore, the results from structural path analysis help identify critical embodied emission paths and key economic sectors in supply chains for mitigating non-CO2 GHG emissions in Chinese economic systems. The top 20 paths were responsible for half of the national total embodied emissions. Several industrial sectors such as Construction, Production and Supply of Electricity and Steam, Manufacture of Food and Tobacco and Manufacture of Chemicals, and Chemical Products played as the important transmission channels. Examining both production- and consumption-based non-CO2 GHG emissions will enrich our understanding of the influences of industrial positions, final consumption demands, and trades on national non-CO2 GHG emissions by considering the comprehensive abatement potentials in the supply chains.
This paper makes an in-depth analysis on demand-driven natural resource requirements in China via the methods of thermodynamic input-output analysis and structural path analysis, in order to reveal the connections between the country's rapid economic development and its intensive use of natural resources. The main natural resources investigated include crops, forestry, rangeland, aquatic products, coal, crude oil & natural gas, ferrous metal ores, nonferrous metal ores, nonmetallic minerals and other primary energy, and exergy is adopted as a common metric for the resource accounting. In 2012, the total domestic resource exergy input into Chinese economic system amounted to 130.1 EJ, of which 44.6% was induced by investment demands. The embodied resource use (ERU) in China's exports was equivalent to over one fifth of its domestic resource supply. The two integrative sectors of Manufacturing and Construction accounted for 44.1% and 28.7% of the national total ERU, respectively. We identified critical supply chain paths starting from resource extraction to final demand, as well as key industrial sectors in driving the extraction, transmission and final use of embodied resources. The top 50 paths were responsible for 30.4 EJ of the ERU. The identification of resource supply chains from a systemic perspective is of great importance when resource and environmental policies are to be applied to concrete industrial sectors and other economic agents. Integrated approaches that take account of consumption-based resource indicators should be developed for resource conservation and cleaner production, particularly for the economic system with a complex supply network.
The assessment of the economic potential of wind electricity is of critical importance for wind power development in China. Based on the wind resource data between 1995 and 2014 and geological assumptions, this paper calculates economic potential of China’s onshore wind electricity. Furthermore, it builds an econometric model to update the net-present-value model, based on a survey sample of various wind farms. Results show that the economic potential of China’s onshore wind electricity is 8.13 PWh per year with a feed-in-tariff price at 0.60 yuan (about 9.6 U.S. cents) per kilowatt-hour.
Recent studies show that international trade affects global distributions of air pollution andpublic health. Domestic interprovincial trade has similar effects within countries, but has notbeen comprehensively investigated previously. Here we link four models to evaluate theeffects of both international exports and interprovincial trade on PM2.5pollution and publichealth across China. We show that 50–60% of China’s air pollutant emissions in 2007 wereassociated with goods and services consumed outside of the provinces where they wereproduced. Of an estimated 1.10 million premature deaths caused by PM2.5pollutionthroughout China, nearly 19% (208,500 deaths) are attributable to international exports. Incontrast, interprovincial trade leads to improved air quality in developed coastal provinceswith a net effect of 78,500 avoided deaths nationwide. However, both international exportand interprovincial trade exacerbate the health burdens of air pollution in China’s lessdeveloped interior provinces. Our results reveal trade to be a critical but largely overlookedconsideration in effective regional air quality planning for China.
Vehicles have recently overtaken coal to become the largest source of air pollution in urban China. Research on mobile sources of pollution has foundered due both to inaccessibility of Chinese data on health outcomes and strong identifying assumptions. To address these, we collect daily ambulance call data from the Beijing Emergency Medical Center and combine them with an idiosyncratic feature of a driving restriction policy in Beijing that references the last digit of vehicles’ license plate numbers. Because the number 4 is considered unlucky by many in China, it tends to be avoided on license plates. As a result, days on which the policy restricts license plates ending in 4 unintentionally allow more vehicles in Beijing. Leveraging this variation, we find that traffic congestion is indeed 22% higher on days banning 4 and that 24-hour average concentration of NO2 is 12% higher. Correspondingly, these short term increases in pollution increase ambulance calls by 12% and 3% for fever and heart related symptoms, while no effects are found for injuries. These findings suggest that traffic congestion has substantial health externalities in China but that they are also responsive to policy.
The climate of our planet is changing at a rate unprecedented in recent human history. The energy absorbed from the sun exceeds what is returned to space. The planet as a whole is gaining energy. The heat content of the ocean is increasing; the surface and atmosphere are warming; mid-latitude glaciers are melting; sea level is rising. The Arctic Ocean is losing its ice cover. None of these assertions are based on theory but on hard scientific fact. Given the science-heavy nature of climate change, debates and discussions have not played as big a role in the public sphere as they should, and instead are relegated to often misinformed political discussions and inaccessible scientific conferences. Michael B. McElroy, an eminent Harvard scholar of environmental studies, combines both his research chops and pedagogical expertise to present a book that will appeal to the lay reader but still be grounded in scientific fact.
In Energy and Climate: Vision for the Future, McElroy provides a broad and comprehensive introduction to the issue of energy and climate change intended to be accessible for the general reader. The book includes chapters on energy basics, a discussion of the contemporary energy systems of the US and China, and two chapters that engage the debate regarding climate change. The perspective is global but with a specific focus on the US and China recognizing the critical role these countries must play in addressing the challenge of global climate change. The book concludes with a discussion of initiatives now underway to at least reduce the rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions, together with a vision for a low carbon energy future that could in principle minimize the long-term impact of energy systems on global climate.
Understanding the rapidly rising demand for energy in China is essential to efforts to reduce the country's energy use and environmental damage. In response to rising incomes and changing prices and demographics, household use of various fuels, electricity and gasoline has changed dramatically in China. In this paper, we estimate both income and price elasticities for various energy types using Chinese urban household micro-data collected by National bureau of Statistics, by applying a two-stage budgeting AIDS model. We find that total energy is price and income inelastic for all income groups after accounting for demographic and regional effects. Our estimated electricity price elasticity ranges from - 0.49 to -0.57, gas price elasticity ranges from -0.46 to -0.94, and gasoline price elasticity ranges from -0.85 to -0.94. Income elasticity for various energy types range from 0.57 to 0.94. Demand for coal is most price and income elastic among the poor, whereas gasoline demand is elastic for the rich.
China is now the largest emitter of CO2 in the world, having contributed nearly half of the global increase in carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010. The existing literature on China’s carbon emissions has focused on two dimensions: the amount of CO2 emitted within China’s geographical boundaries (a production-based perspective), and the drivers of, and responsibility for, these emissions (a consumption-based perspective). The current study begins with a comprehensive review of China’s CO2 emissions, and then analyzes their driving forces from both consumption and production perspectives, at both national and provincial levels. It is concluded that China’s aggregate national CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption and cement production maintained high growth rates during 2000-2010. National emissions reached 6.8–7.3 billion tons in 2007, nearly 25% of which were caused by net exports (i.e., exports minus imports) to other countries. However, emission characteristics varied significantly among different regions and provinces, and considerable emission leakage from the developed eastern regions to inland and western areas of the country was found. The objectives of China’s policies should therefore be broadened from continued improvement of energy efficiency to accelerating regional technology transfer and preventing mere relocation of carbon-intensive economic activities from developed coastal regions to less developed, inland provinces. To rapidly and effectively cut down China’s carbon emissions, moreover, its energy supply should be aggressively decarbonized by promoting renewable and low carbon energy sources.
China’s CO2 emissions have sharply increased in recent years with soaring economic development and urbanization. Consumption-based accounting of CO2 emissions could provide new insights for allocating regional mitigation responsibility and curbing the emissions. A multi-regional input–output model is used to study the trends and disparities of consumption-based emissions from Chinese provinces during the period 2002–2007. Results show that China’s consumption-based CO2 emissions grew from 3549 Mt in 2002 to 5403 Mt in 2007 with an annual average growth rate of 8.8%. The annual growth rate in the richer eastern region was over 10% because of a rapid increase in capital investment and the growth of urban consumption. Consumption-based CO2 emissions embodied in interprovincial trades contributed only 10% (351 Mt) to the national total of such emissions in 2002, but 16% (864 Mt) in 2007. Given low per capita emissions currently, China’s consumption-based emissions have much room to grow because of further development of urbanization and stimulation of domestic demand. The government should pay greater attention to controlling CO2 emissions from a consumption-based perspective.
A groundbreaking U.S.–Chinese inquiry into the effects of recent air pollution controls and prospective carbon taxes on China's economy and environment.
China's carbon dioxide emissions now outstrip those of other countries and its domestic air quality is severely degraded, especially in urban areas. Its sheer size and its growing, fossil-fuel-powered economy mean that China's economic and environmental policy choices will have an outsized effect on the global environmental future. Over the last decade, China has pursued policies that target both fossil fuel use and atmospheric emissions, but these efforts have been substantially overwhelmed by the country's increasing energy demands. With a billion citizens still living on less than $4,000 per year, China's energy and environmental policies must be reconciled with the goals of maintaining economic growth and raising living standards.
This book, a U.S.–Chinese collaboration of experts from Harvard and Tsinghua University, offers a groundbreaking integrated analysis of China's economy, emissions, air quality, public health, and agriculture. It first offers essential scientific context and accessible summaries of the book's policy findings; it then provides the underlying scientific and economic research. These studies suggest that China's recent sulfur controls achieved enormous environmental health benefits at unexpectedly low costs. They also indicate that judicious implementation of carbon taxes could reduce not only China's carbon emissions but also its air pollution more comprehensively than current single-pollutant policies, all at little cost to economic growth.
The Harvard-China Project adopted an Open Access policy in September 2017. Journal articles that are already made open access by the publishers are available on our publications page as PDF attachments, while the final manuscripts of other articles published since our adoption of the policy are available in the Harvard University open-access repository, DASH, under the Harvard-China Project collection. There is usually a six-month delay after the article is published before its manuscript is uploaded to DASH.