By Kristyna Hulland, Center for Global Health

On April 19, Center for Global Health and EPIC hosted a lecture “Integrating Health Effects with Economic Analysis of Environmental Governance,” given by Professor Shiqiu Zhang, Director of the Institute of Environment and Economy at Peking University. Her engaging presentation navigated the landscape of health, environment, policy, and economics shaping the agenda for sustainable policies in China. Professor Zhang’s team researches low-cost solutions to integrating the health effects of air pollution with economic analysis to improve environmental governance. In the past 20 years, her team has examined alternative options for environmental policy, comparing choice experiments with other models of valuation. They have developed a least cost strategy model which takes into account economic drivers, behavior change, and decision making that influence energy use and pollution in China. China is at a critical stage for environmental policies and has set ambitious targets for emissions reductions. By 2020, they plan to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHGs) by 40-45 percent compared to 2005 levels; and 60-65 percent by 2030. In addition, they plan to increase the share of renewable and clean energy to 20percent by 2020.

Despite China’s ambitious policies, air quality issues are an increasing public health concern. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) present in ambient air pollution has been shown to have significant, lasting health effects, including a wide range of cardiopulmonary diseases. Globally, ambient PM2.5 is ranked 7th as a risk factor for premature death; in China, it is 4th. However, China’s first national air pollution control action plan targets PM2.5, and emphasizes air quality improvement rather than point of source emissions. It also enhances local and regional government’s responsibilities for air pollution management. An exemplary illustration of how to respond to today’s global health issues, Professor Zhang’s lecture and work underscore the importance and necessity of integrating different disciplines to conduct research and implement solutions.

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Areas of Focus: Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.