Economic Evaluation of Health Benefits of Mercury Emission Controls for China and the Neighboring Countries in East Asia

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Globally, coal-fired power plant (CFPP) is a major source of mercury. China is developing its first National Implementation Plan on Mercury Control, which priorities the control of emissions from CFPPs. While social benefits play an important role in designing environmental policies in China, the benefits associated with mercury control are not yet understood, mainly due to the scientific challenges to trace mercury's emissions-to-impacts path. This study evaluates the benefits of mercury reductions in China's CFPPs for China and its three neighboring countries in East Asia. Four policy scenarios are analyzed following the policies-to-impacts path, which links a global atmospheric model to health benefit analysis models to estimate the economic gains from avoided mercury-related adverse health outcomes under each scenario, and take into account key uncertainties in the path. Under the most stringent scenario, the benefits of mercury reduction by 2030 are projected to be $432 billion (95% CI: $166–941 billion), with the benefits for China and the neighboring countries accounting for 96% and 4% of the total benefits, respectively. Policy scenario analysis indicates that coal washing generates the greatest benefits in the near term, whereas upgrading air pollution control devices maximizes health benefits in the long term.