Paulson Institute / by Joshua Busby and Sarang Shidore
Our starting premise is that air pollution is a more salient issue in China than climate change and that the country is likely to take more heroic and costly measures to reduce the threat of air pollution for Chinese citizens than they are to contribute to the global public good of climate change mitigation. From this perspective, much of the discussion of using climate change to produce co-benefits for air pollution is misplaced. We need to ensure that air pollution policies create co-benefits for the climate. As we note, some actions, reducing the use of coal, will be beneficial for both air pollution and climate goals. Other policies, such as producing synthetic gas from coal or relocating coal plants to the interior, might produce benefits for air pollution but make the climate problem worse.
The US has limited leverage over this domestic dynamic in China, but we identify 4 strategies the US can engage in to make it more likely that China will choose policies that produce co-benefits for climate change. These include: 1) the US keeping its own climate commitments (2) fostering transparency through research partnerships (3) pursuing complementary processes to the UNFCCC and (4) considering border tax adjustments. Let me say a bit more about each one of these ideas…