The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) announced today the formation of a new research collaboration with the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) that will support a wide range of areas of interest between Chinese researchers and faculty from the University of Chicago focused on energy and environmental issues and policies. To mark the announcement, representatives of the University of Chicago and UCAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at a joint event in Beijing.

“We believe this historic and exciting partnership between the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Chicago has great potential to advance fundamental understanding and its applications in the months and years ahead,” said University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer. “I am very confident that together we will make advances on some of the world’s most critical challenges that neither of us could do individually.”

The five-year collaboration aims to generate fresh insights into pressing energy and environmental challenges, offering Chinese policymakers new tools to tackle important priorities such as cost-effective reductions in air pollution.

Of the collaboration, UCAS President Shushen LI said: “We are excited to form this historic partnership and to pursue this important work. Our relationship combines the prominent engineering expertise of UCAS with the University of Chicago’s global leadership in economic analysis. Working together, I believe these two perspectives have the ability to produce new ideas and solutions that might not exist otherwise. It is truly exciting.”

The announcement came during the Mandarin launch of EPIC’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), a first-of-its-kind tool that allows policymakers to quantify the benefits of air pollution reduction measures by converting them into the most important metric that exists: improvements in life expectancy. The AQLI is based on a pair of peer-reviewed studies co-authored by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone that quantify the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to particulate pollution and life expectancy. Greenstone and his co-authors were able to draw this causal relationship thanks to a well-intentioned home heating policy in China that contributed to higher pollution in the north.

Greenstone’s more than two decades of research on energy and environmental issues in China and other parts of the world, along with research being conducted by other University of Chicago faculty such as Koichiro Ito, helped forge the roots of the new UCAS collaboration.

“Many of the most urgent energy challenges today are in China, where almost 1.5 billion people are trying to balance the need for inexpensive and reliable energy with the health and climate consequences of their energy choices,” said Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, the College, and the Harris School. “Our partnership aims to conduct frontier scientific research that also identifies efficient solutions to these energy challenges that can aid policymakers in China and other parts of the world.”

EPIC is an affiliate of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI), which launched BFI-China in 2018 to bring the rigor of Chicago Economics to numerous challenges facing the Chinese economy through a range of partnerships with leading Chinese research institutions. BFI announced a separate collaboration with Tsinghua University in November 2018 to form the Tsinghua University–University of Chicago Joint Research Center for Economics and Finance.

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