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Pathways of China's PM2.5 air quality 2015–2060 in the context of carbon neutrality

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Abstract: Clean air policies in China have substantially reduced particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution in recent years, primarily by curbing end-of-pipe emissions. However, reaching the level of the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines may instead depend upon the air quality co-benefits of ambitious climate action. Here, we assess pathways of Chinese PM2.5 air quality from 2015 to 2060 under a combination of scenarios that link global and Chinese climate mitigation pathways (i.e. global 2°C- and 1.5°C-pathways, National Determined Contributions (NDC) pledges and carbon neutrality goals) to local clean air policies. We find that China can achieve both its near-term climate goals (peak emissions) and PM2.5 air quality annual standard (35 μg/m3) by 2030 by fulfilling its NDC pledges and continuing air pollution control policies. However, the benefits of end-of-pipe control reductions are mostly exhausted by 2030, and reducing PM2.5 exposure of the majority of the Chinese population to below 10 μg/m3 by 2060 will likely require more ambitious climate mitigation efforts such as China's carbon neutrality goals and global 1.5°C-pathways. Our results thus highlight that China's carbon neutrality goals will play a critical role in reducing air pollution exposure to the level of the WHO guidelines and protecting public health.

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