Environmental Quality and Sustainability

Landscape of industrial area sunset in winter with smog clouds.

Environmental Quality & Sustainability

Understanding China's environmental challenges and plans to confront them.

Overview

China’s impressive growth in economic output over the past few decades has been accompanied by increasingly serious environmental problems. Several of the country’s urban areas are experiencing some of the worst air pollution in the world, and water pollution and groundwater depletion also are severe problems in several parts of the country. And, China is now the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. In the coming years, China will be making important choices as to how to confront these environmental challenges. The choices will not only have important environmental consequences, but also broad economic consequences as well, since the economic sacrifices associated with different forms of environmental regulation vary greatly.

Publications

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Journal Articles

Grassland Ecological Compensation Policy in China Improves Grassland Quality and Increases Herders’ Income

Lingling Hou, Fang Xia, Qihui Chen, Jikun Huang, Yong He, Nathan Rose, Scott Rozelel
Nature Communications , 2021

Many countries have undertaken large and high-profile payment-for-ecosystem-services (PES) programs to sustain the use of their natural resources. Nevertheless, few studies have comprehensively examined the impacts of existing PES programs. Grassland Ecological Compensation Policy (GECP) is one of the few pastorally focused PES programs with large investments and long duration, which aim to improve grassland quality and increase herder income. Here we present empirical evidence of the effects of GECP on grassland quality and herder income. Through a thorough and in-depth econometric analysis of remote sensing and household survey data, we find that, although GECP improves grassland quality (albeit to only a small extent) and has a large positive effect on income, it exacerbates existing income inequality among herders within their local communities. The analysis demonstrates that the program has induced herders to change their livestock production behavior. Heterogeneity analysis emphasizes the importance of making sure the programs are flexible and are adapted to local resource circumstances.

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Policy Briefs

Tracking China's Economic Path

Hongbin Li, Scott Rozelle
2021

Stanford scholars are setting and expanding research agendas to analyze China’s economic development and its impact on the world. The newly launched Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions — co-directed by SIEPR senior fellows Hongbin Li and Scott Rozelle — is supporting their work. In this SIEPR Policy Brief, Li and Rozelle outline the research underway by the new center's affiliates.

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Books

Assessment of the Development of Groundwater Market in Rural China

Jinxia Wang, Lijuang Zhang, Qiuqiong Huang, Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle
Water Markets for the 21st Century: What Have We Learned? , 2014

Abstract: Using field survey data collected by the authors, this chapter first describes groundwater markets in northern China that have been developing rapidly in the past two decades. Groundwater markets in the area are informal, localized and mostly unregulated. There is little price discrimination, and institutional characteristics tend to be similar in both high- and low-income villages. The privatization of tubewells is one of the most important driving forces encouraging the development of groundwater markets.

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Books

The Role of Agriculture in China's Development: Performance, policy determinants of success, and lessons for Africa

Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle
Frontiers in Food Policy: Perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa , 2014

The lost decades for China in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s look remarkably like the lost decades of Africa in the 1980s an 1990s.  Poor land rights, weak incentives, incomplete markets and inappropriate investment portfolios.  However, China burst out of its stagnation in the 1980s and has enjoyed three decades of remarkable growth.  In this paper we examine the record of the development of China's food economy and identify the policies that helped generate the growth and transformation of agriculture.  Incentives, markets and strategic investments by the state were key.

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Journal Articles

Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China's Hua River Policy

Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone, Hongbin Li
PNAS , 2013
This paper's findings suggest that an arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy. The quasi-experimental empirical approach is based on China’s Huai River policy, which provided free winter heating via the provision of coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai River but denied heat to the south. Using a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, we find that ambient concentrations of TSPs are about 184 μg/m3 [95% confidence interval (CI): 61, 307] or 55% higher in the north. Further, the results indicate that life expectancies are about 5.5 y (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) lower in the north owing to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality. More generally, the analysis suggests that long-term exposure to an additional 100 μg/m3 of TSPs is associated with a reduction in life expectancy at birth of about 3.0 y (95% CI: 0.4, 5.6).
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