Over the past 30 years, China has harnessed inexpensive, reliable energy to fuel history’s most remarkable economic expansions, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and transforming the global economy. At the same time, this growth has increased emissions that are damaging human health in China and contributing to global warming. To confront these challenges in China, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) is launching a groundbreaking effort that will combine frontier economics research with key local partnerships to produce tested, scalable policy solutions. Housed at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, EPIC-China will leverage the world-class faculty at the University of Chicago in addition to researchers on the ground in China.

“China has made unprecedented progress in slashing pollution over the past four years,” says Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of EPIC and the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at UChicago (BFI). “But in order to facilitate continued rapid economic growth, the next gains in environmental quality will require deeper focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Alongside our collaborators, EPIC-China will conduct frontier research on how to ensure access to inexpensive and reliable energy while meeting China’s ambitious goals to reduce pollution and confront climate change without unnecessarily compromising economic growth. This work could bring long-lasting benefits not just to China, but to the whole world.”

  • Learn more about EPIC-China, its team, and its portfolio of research, news and analysis at epic.uchicago.cn.

EPIC-China builds on a foundation of research in China, including a pair of peer-reviewed studies that for the first time quantified the causal relationship between long-term exposure to particulate pollution and life expectancy. Combining these results with hyper-localized, global particulate measurements, Michael Greenstone and his colleagues at EPIC formed the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), a metric that converts particulate pollution into its impact on life expectancy. The robust AQLI platform allows users to learn how much longer they could live if pollution in their area is reduced. The Mandarin version of the AQLI was launched at a special event in Beijing earlier this year.

New research projects through EPIC-China will apply EPIC’s successful model for addressing difficult energy and environmental challenges through data-driven, tested research in partnership with local, regional, and national collaborators. This model is actively at work in cities and countries around the world, including in India where EPIC has hosted a team since 2014.

“This new effort in China demonstrates the University’s commitment to producing impactful research insights in the world’s most populous country and one of the world’s most dynamic economies,” says Bala Srinivasan, chief international officer and deputy provost at the University of Chicago.

The senior director in China is Kevin Mo, who brings more than 20 years of experience in strategizing and implementing climate and energy policies in both the United States and China. Mo also serves as managing director at the Paulson Institute Beijing Representative Office. Guojun He, an assistant professor at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), is serving as EPIC-China’s research director. Also part of the team is Shaoda Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics, who is studying development economics, environmental economics, and political economy. Wang will join the faculty of the Harris School of Public Policy in 2020.

In addition to the team on the ground, EPIC-China has already begun to engage faculty in robust research projects that confront China’s energy and environment problems. For example, Harris Public Policy Associate Professor Koichiro Ito is working on a project to study the economic and environmental benefits of heating price reform in China. Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Fiona Burlig is working to study the effects of China’s Air Pollution Alert System.

Ito and Burlig’s research is part of a collaboration with the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). Launched in January 2019, the EPIC-UCAS Joint Center for Energy Policy Research in China will be one component of EPIC-China, connecting UChicago economists with leading Chinese researchers in engineering and the physical sciences. The Joint Center announced their first series of projects earlier this month.

EPIC-China is part of a broader effort at the University of Chicago to produce new insights on key economic policy issues facing Chinese policymakers today. This work is being led by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI), which serves as a hub for cutting-edge analysis and research across the entire University of Chicago economics community. As part of the broader Chicago Economics community, EPIC is an affiliated center of BFI. BFI-China will coordinate research in three primary areas: energy and environment (via EPIC-China), Chinese financial markets, and the Chinese model of economic growth.

Areas of Focus: EPIC-China
China is indisputably critical to addressing the global energy challenge. China is one of the world’s biggest economies, the top carbon emitter, and among the most polluted countries. Yet, China...