Report: Millions of Chinese still using solid fuels for cooking and heating, causing significant ambient air pollution
An Alliance-supported review found that approximately 600 million Chinese people are still using coal or biomass fuels for cooking, and almost 30 percent of households continue to heat their homes with solid fuels. According to the report, “Residential Solid Fuel Combustion and Impacts on Air Quality and Human Health in Mainland China,” 13 percent of the total anthropogenic energy consumption in China is due to solid fuel consumption. Emissions from residential solid fuel burning are a significant but overlooked contributor to local and regional ambient air pollution; household solid fuels contribute between 50-80 percent of total anthropogenic emissions of primary PM2.5, CO, black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC), and benzo(a)pyrene in China.
The review also highlights that the adverse health effects of household air pollution are apparent in a growing local evidence base, which is consistent with the global evidence showing that household air pollution can cause a range of health outcomes, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, neural tube defects, and immune system impairment. Household air pollution is the fifth leading risk factor for death in China, leading to over one million premature deaths each year.
In addition to highlighting the magnitude of the problem in China, the review found that more research is needed to better understand the impacts of household solid fuel use and inform the development of practical abatement strategies in China. Although adverse effects of household solid fuels are well recognized, the quantification of these effects have great uncertainty, primarily due to data gaps (e.g. quantities of residential solid fuel consumption, usage of traditional and clean stoves, field measured emission factors, household air quality, exposure rate, and disease statistics etc.) and knowledge gaps (e.g. trends of solid fuel and stove uses, emission dynamics, factors affecting the emission, relationship between fuel and indoor air quality, association between indoor and ambient air quality, and influence of urbanization on the emission etc.). The review highlighted the following key research priorities to address these gaps:
- Field survey and observation to inform evaluation of health and climate impacts
- Modeling studies to assess climate and health impacts of residential solid fuel consumption, including highly spatiotemporally resolved emission inventories, indoor air quality modeling, downscaling and population exposure modeling, and estimates of the relative contributions of residential sector to ambient air pollution.
- Impact assessments to better inform development of emission-abatement oriented policies
- Evidence-based decision tools to inform policy, including cost-benefit analyses and risk assessments