Benefits of Mercury Controls for China and the Neighboring Countries in East Asia

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Exposure to mercury poses significant risks to the health of humans and wildlife. Globally, coal-fired power plant (CFPP) is a major source of mercury emissions, with China being the largest contributor to global atmospheric mercury. As a signatory country of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, China is developing its National Implementation Plan on Mercury Control, which gives priority to control of mercury emissions from CFPPs. While social benefits play an important role in designing environmental policies in China, the potential public health and economic benefits of mercury control in the nation are not yet understood, mainly due to the scientific challenges to trace mercury’s emissions-to-impacts path. Moreover, little is known about the potential benefits for the neighboring countries in East Asia resulted from China’s mercury control. This study evaluates the health and economic benefits for China and neighboring countries in East Asia from mercury reductions from China’s CFPPs. Four representative mercury control policy scenarios are analyzed, and the evaluation is explicitly conducted following the policies-to-impacts path under each policy scenario. We link a global atmospheric model to health impact assessment and economic valuation models to estimate economic gains for China and its three neighboring countries (Japan, South Korea and North Korea) from avoided mercury-related adverse health outcomes under the four emission control scenarios, and also take into account the key uncertainties in the policies-to-impacts path. Under the most stringent control scenario, the cumulative benefit of the mercury reduction by 2030 is projected to be $430 billion for the four countries together (the 95% confidence interval is $102-903 billion, in 2010 USD). Our findings suggest that although China is the biggest beneficiary of the mercury reduction in CFPPs, neighboring countries including Japan, South Korea and North Korea can also benefit (~7% of the total benefits) from China’s mercury reduction.


San Diego, CA

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