Press Release

China’s National Coal Cap Policy Could Save Nearly 50,000 Lives and $6.2 billion Every Year by 2020

BEIJING (April 8, 2015) – China’s proposed national policies to curb coal use will provide enormous air quality and health benefits to the public and coal industry workers, saving 49,000 lives and $6.2 billion in 2020, according to a new study released today by the China Coal Cap Project, a joint initiative of academic, governmental and non-profit researchers, with the support of the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).

“The data is clear: cutting coal consumption and reducing air pollution would bring enormous health and economic benefits to China,” said Dr. Yang Fuqiang, Senior Advisor on Energy, Environment and Climate Change for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “We need this national coal cap to make our citizens healthier and help speed China’s transition to cleaner forms of energy.”

The study examines the public health impacts of a national coal cap policy that caps coal consumption in 2020 at 4.1 billion tons of coal, compared to a business-as-usual scenario in which China’s coal consumption continues to grow to 4.8 billion tons of coal in 2030. The report estimates that air pollution from coal use led to approximately 708,000 premature deaths in China in 2012 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), ischemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The air quality improvements from a national coal cap policy would save approximately 49,000 lives per year in 2020, 89,000 in 2030, 80,000 in 2040 and 51,000 in 2050, leading to economic benefits of $6.2 billion, $11.4 billion, $10.2 billion and $6.5 billion respectively.

The study also analyzed the impacts of a coal cap policy on the occupational health and mortality of coal mining and production workers, finding that a national coal cap policy would prevent approximately 800-1,400 cases of lung disease among coal mining and production workers per year between 2020 to 2050 and approximately 180-260 premature deaths per year from 2030 to 2050. 24,206 cases of occupation-related pneumoconiosis disease were reported in 2012, with 55 percent of these occurring in the coal mining and production sector.

The coal cap health study builds on prior analysis by the China Coal Cap Project which finds that coal combustion and utilization was responsible for about 62% of particulate matter (PM 2.5), 93% of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 70% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution in China in 2012. The China Coal Cap Project also previously found (Chinese report) the environmental and health costs from coal production, transportation and utilization amounted to 260 RMB ($43) per ton in 2012. In order to mitigate these environmental and health costs, the project recommends implementation of a national coal consumption cap target and policy in the next Five Year Plan, and the use of increasing resource, environmental and carbon taxes (Chinese report) to account for the environmental and health costs of coal.

About the China Coal Cap Project:

As the world’s largest coal-consuming country, China not only faces domestic challenges from smog and other severe environmental pollution, but also international pressure on carbon pollution reduction. These circumstances provide a clear requirement for China’s energy transition: a total coal consumption cap.  As such, the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with over 20 leading Chinese stakeholders, including government think tanks, research institutes, and industry associations, jointly launched the China Coal Consumption Cap project in October 2013. The project aims to develop a comprehensive roadmap and policy package for establishing and implementing a binding national coal consumption cap that aims to help China peak its coal consumption by 2020. Accelerating the replacement of coal with energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources will fundamentally help China achieve its long-term economic, environmental, and climate goals. To learn more about the project, please visit:

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