Stricter clean heating policies in China have led to a significant reduction in air pollution and may have saved thousands of lives, according to a recent study.
In the study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and the University of Birmingham in England looked into the effectiveness of clean heating policies in Beijing, Tianjin and 26 surrounding cities.
The team found that between 2015 and 2021, the concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the cities decreased by 41.3%, while other northern Chinese cities that did not observe the policies only saw a 13% decrease.
The number of premature deaths caused by poor air quality in the 28 cities dropped from 169,016 in 2015 to 145,460 in 2021, a difference of approximately 23,500.
“Our research demonstrates the effectiveness of China’s clean winter heating policies on reducing PM2.5 — with particular success for the stricter clean heating policies in ‘2 + 26’ cities, which also led to a reduced impact of heating emissions on sulfur dioxide (SO2),” said study co-author and professor Zongbo Shi from the University of Birmingham. “These results demonstrate clear air quality benefits from the stricter clean heating policies in ‘2 + 26’ cities.”
Meanwhile, co-author and professor Robert Elliott pointed out that clean heating policies not only reduced air pollution but also contributed to China’s push for carbon neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Elliott, however, emphasized that decarbonizing heating should continue to be a key part of China’s carbon neutrality strategy, citing the “significant public health benefits” it provides.