Managing urban development could halve nitrogen pollution in China

TitleManaging urban development could halve nitrogen pollution in China
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsDeng O, Wang S, Ran J, , Zhang X, Duan J, Zhang L, Xia Y, Reis S, Xu J, Xu J, de Vries W, Sutton MA, Gu B
JournalNature Communications
Date Published01/2024

Halving nitrogen pollution is crucial for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, how to reduce nitrogen pollution from multiple sources remains challenging. Here we show that reactive nitrogen (Nr) pollution could be roughly halved by managed urban development in China by 2050, with NH3, NOx and N2O atmospheric emissions declining by 44%, 30% and 33%, respectively, and Nr to water bodies by 53%. While rural-urban migration increases point-source nitrogen emissions in metropolitan areas, it promotes large-scale farming, reducing rural sewage and agricultural non-point-source pollution, potentially improving national air and water quality. An investment of approximately US$ 61 billion in waste treatment, land consolidation, and livestock relocation yields an overall benefit of US$ 245 billion. This underscores the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of halving Nr pollution through urbanization, contributing significantly to SDG1 (No poverty), SDG2 (Zero hunger), SDG6 (Clean water), SDG12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG14 (Climate Action), and so on.