Analysis | Published:

An evaluation of air quality, home heating and well-being under Beijing’s programme to eliminate household coal use

Abstract

To mitigate health and environmental effects from coal-based home heating, the Beijing Municipality has implemented a programme in 3,700 villages that subsidizes electric heat pumps and electricity, and bans coal. Here, we estimate this programme’s impact on household energy use and expenditure, well-being and indoor environmental quality by comparing treated and untreated villages in three districts that vary in socioeconomic conditions. We find that, under this programme, households in high- and middle-income districts eliminated coal use with benefits to indoor temperature, indoor air pollution and life satisfaction. In a low-income district, the policy had partial effectiveness: coal use was contingent on household wealth, and there were fewer benefits to the indoor environment and negative impacts on well-being. These results suggest that a rapid household energy transition can be effective, but it is essential to appropriately control subsidies and fine-tune supports to limit transitional hardships for the less affluent.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Data availability

Datasets generated and analysed during this study will be made available on a case-by-case basis on request to the corresponding author, with input from the co-authors, subject to compliance with Research Ethics Board restrictions for the survey data.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Shan, Y. et al. China CO2 emission accounts 1997–2015. Sci. Data 5, 170201 (2018).

  2. 2.

    Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2017).

  3. 3.

    Duan, X. et al. Household fuel use for cooking and heating in China: results from the first Chinese Environmental Exposure-Related Human Activity Patterns Survey (CEERHAPS). Appl. Ener. 136, 692–703 (2014).

  4. 4.

    Smith, K. R., Shuhua, G., Kun, H. & Daxiong, Q. One hundred million improved cookstoves in China: how was it done? World Dev. 21, 941–961 (1993).

  5. 5.

    Jiang, X., Sommer, S. G. & Christensen, K. V. A review of the biogas industry in China. Ener. Policy 39, 6073–6081 (2011).

  6. 6.

    Tao, S. et al. Quantifying the rural residential energy transition in China from 1992 to 2012 through a representative national survey. Nat. Energy 3, 567–573 (2018).

  7. 7.

    Sinton, J. E. et al. An assessment of programs to promote improved household stoves in China. Ener. Sustain. Dev. 8, 33–52 (2004).

  8. 8.

    Archer-Nicholls, S. et al. The regional impacts of cooking and heating emissions on ambient air quality and disease burden in China. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 9416–9423 (2016).

  9. 9.

    Liu, J. et al. Air pollutant emissions from Chinese households: a major and underappreciated ambient pollution source. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 7756–7761 (2016).

  10. 10.

    Wang, R. et al. Black carbon emissions in China from 1949 to 2050. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 7595–7603 (2012).

  11. 11.

    Zhang, Z. et al. The contribution of residential coal combustion to PM2.5 pollution over China’s Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region in winter. Atmos. Environ. 159, 147–161 (2017).

  12. 12.

    Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan (China State Council, 2013).

  13. 13.

    A Three-Year Action Plan to Win the Battle for a Blue Sky (Chinese State Council, 2018).

  14. 14.

    Easterlin, R. A., Morgan, R., Switek, M. & Wang, F. China’s life satisfaction, 1990-2010. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 9775–9780 (2012).

  15. 15.

    Zhang, X., Zhang, X. & Chen, X. Happiness in the air: how does a dirty sky affect mental health and subjective well-being? J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 85, 81–94 (2017).

  16. 16.

    Li, X., Baumgartner, J., Barrington-Leigh, C., Robinson, B. & Carter, E. Initial household- and village-level impacts of residential coal use restrictions on indoor air quality in rural homes in Beijing, China. In ISEE Conference Abstracts (ISEE, 2018).

  17. 17.

    Carter, E. et al. Seasonal and diurnal air pollution from residential cooking and space heating in the Eastern Tibetan Plateau. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 8353–8361 (2016).

  18. 18.

    Wang, T., Cheung, T. F., Li, Y. S., Yu, X. M. & Blake, D. R. Emission characteristics of CO, NOx, SO2 and indications of biomass burning observed at a rural site in Eastern China. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 107, ACH 9-1–ACH 9-10 (2002).

  19. 19.

    Lin, W., Xu, X., Ge, B. & Liu, X. Gaseous pollutants in Beijing urban area during the heating period 2007–2008: variability, sources, meteorological, and chemical impacts. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 11, 8157–8170 (2011).

  20. 20.

    Cai, S. et al. Pollutant emissions from residential combustion and reduction strategies estimated via a village-based emission inventory in Beijing. Environ. Pollut. 238, 230–237 (2018).

  21. 21.

    Thomson, H., Thomas, S., Sellstrom, E. & Petticrew, M. Housing improvements for health and associated socio-economic outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2, CD008657 (2013).

  22. 22.

    WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Household Fuel Combustion (World Health Organization, 2015).

  23. 23.

    Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions 519–542 (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2012).

  24. 24.

    GBD MAPS Working Group Burden of Disease Attributable to Coal-Burning and other Major Sources of Air Pollution in China Special report 20 (Health Effects Institute, 2016).

  25. 25.

    Snider, G. et al. Impacts of stove use patterns and outdoor air quality on household air pollution and cardiovascular mortality in southwestern China. Environ. Int. 117, 116–124 (2018).

  26. 26.

    OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being (OECD, 2013); https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264191655-en

  27. 27.

    Stone, A. A., et al. Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience (National Academies Press, 2014).

  28. 28.

    Barrington-Leigh, C. & Behzadnejad, F. Evaluating the short-term cost of low-level local air pollution: a life satisfaction approach. Environ. Econ. Policy Stud. 19, 269–298 (2017).

  29. 29.

    Zhang, J. et al. Greenhouse gases and other airborne pollutants from household stoves in China: a database for emission factors. Atmos. Environ. 34, 4537–4549 (2000).

  30. 30.

    Shen, G. et al. Pollutant emissions from improved coal- and wood-fuelled cookstoves in rural households. Environ. Sci. Technol. 49, 6590–6598 (2015).

  31. 31.

    Li, Q. et al. Impacts of household coal and biomass combustion on indoor and ambient air quality in China: current status and implication. Sci. Total Environ. 576, 347–361 (2017).

  32. 32.

    Chen, Y. et al. Field measurement and estimate of gaseous and particle pollutant emissions from cooking and space heating processes in rural households, northern China. Atmos. Environ. 125, 265–271 (2016).

  33. 33.

    Filmer, D. & Pritchett, L. Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data—or tears: an application to educational enrollments in states of India. Demography 38, 115–132 (2001).

  34. 34.

    Chamon, M. D. & Prasad, E. S. Why are saving rates of urban households in China rising? Am. Econ. J. Macroecon. 2, 93–130 (2010).

  35. 35.

    Curtis, C. C., Lugauer, S. & Mark, N. C. Demographic patterns and household saving in China. Am. Econ. J. Macroecon. 7, 58–94 (2015).

  36. 36.

    Jung, S. & Marron, J. S. PCA consistency in high dimension, low sample size context. Ann. Stat. 37, 4104–4130 (2009).

  37. 37.

    Wallace, L. A. et al. Validation of continuous particle monitors for personal, indoor, and outdoor exposures. J. Expo. Sci. Environ. Epidemiol. 21, 49–64 (2011).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to A. Ballyk and M. Smailes for research assistance, and S. Harper and R. Ravishankara for comments on a draft of the manuscript. This work was supported by a McGill University Emerging Scholars Accelerator grant and by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants 435-2016-0531 and 430-2017-00998.

Author information

C.B.-L., J.B., E.C. and B.R. designed the study, led the field work and wrote the paper. C.B.-L. and E.C. carried out the analysis. C.B.-L., J.B., E.C., B.R., S.T. and Y.Z. discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Christopher Barrington-Leigh.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Tables 1–12, Supplementary Figs. 1–9, Supplementary Notes 1 and 2, Supplementary References

  2. Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark
Fig. 1: Coal storage and heating equipment.
Fig. 2: Study site locations within Beijing.

Beijing Office of Rural Affairs (map outline)

Fig. 3: Heating and expenditure for coal and electricity.
Fig. 4: Coal use versus wealth.
Fig. 5: Subjective evaluations of well-being.
Fig. 6: Cumulative distributions of indoor 24-h PM2.5 concentrations.
Fig. 7: Cumulative distributions of observed daytime temperature.