RAP principal Christopher James joined Where We Live for a conversation about air quality. He discussed China’s unique approach to addressing air pollution and highlighted how the United States could learn from China’s experience.

In an effort to address China’s well-known air quality issues, many of China’s cities must improve ambient air quality by 25 percent by 2017. As a result, Chinese policymakers are approaching the challenge with multiple pollutants in mind—examining what drives air quality. “In most cases it gets to energy use,” said Mr. James. He pointed out that increasing the efficiency of our energy consumption, as well as generating more energy from renewable resources can reduce the output of multiple pollutants, including greenhouse gases.

This is a lesson that can be applicable in the United States. The average coal plant in the United States wastes two-thirds of the energy it burns. Energy efficiency measures offer “highly cost effective solutions that not only reduce air pollution, but also can improve water quality and land use,” Mr. James emphasized.

The approach in the United States has historically focused on reducing single-pollutants at a time. However, pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting existing power plants offer an opportunity to examine how clean energy programs can help states cost-effectively reduce multiple pollutants. James offered a couple examples, “Connecticut is looking at renewables as a way to improve air quality. We also see that in China with the huge growth of wind and solar.”

RAP’s Integrated Multi-pollutant Planning for Energy and Air Quality model provides concrete recommendations for states interested in adopting a multi-pollutant approach to air quality.

Contact: Christopher James