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Health Co-Benefits from NDC Implementation in China

Key Messages

  • China has shown strong determination to shift to a low-carbon economy through a series of initiatives and commitments, such as its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitment to peaking its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by around 2030; its commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies as part of the G20 and the definition of a reform plan to achieve this in their self-review to fossil fuel subsidies; and Premier Li Keqiang’s 2017 pledge to “make the skies blue again” by tackling air pollution.
  • These commitments have an important impact on Chinese health, as climate change and air pollution are a recognized cause of several serious non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, malnutrition and other diseases linked to the fallout from natural disasters.
  • China already has a large set of policies in place that are aligned with the country’s NDC targets. If NDC targets are achieved, recent research models estimate that between 225,000 and 368,000 premature deaths could be avoided in 2050, and research shows that the health co-benefits are higher than the cost of implementing climate policies.
  • However, subsidies to fossil fuels in China still remain a main environmental challenge and have an important opportunity cost. They also have an associated cost of USD 1.79 trillion due to externalities (mostly health and climate change costs).

Over the past few years, China has shown strong determination to shift to a low-carbon economy through a series of initiatives and commitments. Health concerns due to significant levels of air pollution are one of the drivers behind that determination. Furthermore, there is strong evidence of the links between health and climate change. Climate change and air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels are linked to several serious non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, malnutrition and other diseases linked to the fallout from natural disasters.

This report summarizes the policy efforts that China is already undertaking to achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets, and the related expected health co-benefits, based on recent scientific literature. This report also looks at relevant Chinese budget allocations to health, environment and fossil fuels. It shows that:

  • There is a large set of ongoing policies aligned with the country’s NDC targets that focus mostly on the reduction of fossil fuel use and the expansion of cleaner forms of energy.
  • If NDC targets are achieved, recent research models estimate that between 225,000 and 368,000 premature deaths could be avoided in 2050, and research shows that the health co-benefits are higher than the cost of implementing climate policies
  • Subsidies to fossil fuels in China remain a main environmental challenge and have an important opportunity cost: in 2017, these subsidies represented around 19 per cent of the budget allocation to health and 48 per cent of the general budget to environmental protection. In addition, the use of fossil fuels has an associated cost of USD 1.79 trillion due to externalities (mostly health and climate change costs).

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