Cost–benefit analysis of early implementation of the China 6 light-duty vehicle emission standard in Guangdong Province

Published: 2017.08.09

Zhenying Shao, Zifei Yang, and Hongyang Cui

Guangdong Province, ranked first in gross domestic product for the past 28 years in China, has consistently taken actions to improve local air quality. The region is well-known for the “Guangdong Blue (sky),” because its air quality is generally better than most regions in China. However, air quality in the region deteriorated in the first quarter of 2017; the monitored particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone (O3), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations all increased compared with 2016 levels. More action is needed for Guangdong to maintain and improve the local air quality.

This paper reviews the costs and benefits that would result from implementing the China 6 light-duty vehicle (LDV) emission standard in Guangdong with a recommended timeline earlier than the national plan (2023). As an update to our previous work, this paper incorporates improved models and the latest emission standards, as well as our updated estimation of compliance costs. It provides modeled emission reductions of regulated ambient air pollutants; changes to PM2.5 and ground-level O3 concentrations; and avoided health impacts, including premature deaths and hospitalization. A cost–benefit analysis compares the social value of public health benefits with the costs associated with upgrading to cleaner vehicle technology.

Based on the following observations and findings, we highly recommend that Guangdong adopt the China 6 standard and an aggressive high-emitting-vehicle retirement program by mid-2018.

  • O3, PM, and NO2 emissions are the most concerning air quality pollutants in the region of Guangdong—all are highly related to vehicle emissions.
  • The China 6 standard, especially China 6b, can significantly reduce emissions of PM, NO2, and other O3 precursors.
  • Current vehicle emission control measures have achieved major progress in stabilizing emissions in the near to mid-term.
  • Only by adopting the China 6 standard will Guangdong achieve long-term emissions reduction and air quality benefits. Improved compliance and enforcement, enhanced OBD provisions, adoption of the RDE test, and an improved in-use testing program would enable better Early adoption of the China 6 standard would lead to more than a third of additional savings from LDVs, and the benefits last beyond 2030.
  • A more aggressive high-emitter-retirement program would significantly advance the health benefits (i.e., avoided premature deaths and avoided hospital admissions) in the short term.
  • The health benefits outweigh the technology cost by a factor of 3 in 2030. This number will grow even higher beyond 2030.

Early adoption of the China 6b standard would reduce an additional cumulative 27 kilotons of PM emission from 2015 to 2030 compared with the Business-As-Usual scenario. It also reduces two major O precursors—nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbon (HC)—which was demonstrated by the air quality modeling analysis to effectively alleviate the O3 concentration levels in Guangdong. Over the next 15 years, adoption of the China 6 standard would reduce tailpipe emissions by a cumulative 1,289 kilotons of NOX and 536 kilotons of HC. Among those, over 30% of the emission reduction comes from implementing China 6b ahead of the national timeline (Early Adoption scenario). Furthermore, introducing China 6b effectively reduces the evaporative emissions by 90% in 2030.