17 Feb 2023
 | 17 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

The underappreciated role of transboundary pollution in future air quality and health improvements in China

Jun-Wei Xu, Jintai Lin, Dan Tong, and Lulu Chen

Abstract. Studies assessing the achievability of future air quality goals in China have focused on the role of reducing China’s domestic emissions, yet the influence of transboundary pollution of foreign origins has been largely underappreciated. Here, we assess the extent to which future changes in foreign transboundary pollution would affect the achievability of air quality goals in 2030 and 2060 for China. We find that adopting the low-carbon instead of the fossil fuel-intensive pathway in foreign countries would avoid millions of Chinese people from being exposed to PM2.5 concentrations above China’s air quality standard level (35 µg m−3) in 2030 and the World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline (5 µg m−3) in 2060. China adopting the carbon-neutral pathway rather than its current pathway would also be helpful to reduce transboundary PM2.5 produced from the chemical interactions between foreign-transported and locally-emitted pollutants. In 2060, adopting a low-carbon pathway in China and foreign countries coincidently would avoid 63 % of transboundary pollution and 386,000 associated premature deaths in China, relative to adopting a fossil fuel-intensive pathway in both regions. Thus, the influence of transboundary pollution should be carefully considered when making future air quality expectations and pollution mitigation strategies.

Jun-Wei Xu et al.

Status: open (until 23 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Jun-Wei Xu et al.

Jun-Wei Xu et al.


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Short summary
This study highlights the necessity of a low-carbon pathway in foreign countries for China to achieve air quality goals and to protect public health. We find that adopting the low-carbon instead of the fossil fuel-intensive pathway in foreign countries would avoid 63,000–270,000 transboundary PM2.5-associated mortality in China in 2060. Our study provides direct evidence on the necessity of inter-regional cooperation for air quality improvement.