Maximizing benefits on the path to achieving global climate goals is the way forward

Climate & Clean Air Coalition partners presented an approach that maximises development, brings health and other benefits, while reducing near-term temperature rise and keeping long-term warming below the 2˚C threshold.

The path the world takes to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement is just as important as reaching its goal to limit global warming to well below 2˚C. Rapidly reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon, as drivers of near-term warming*, alongside urgent CO2 reductions, is crucial to help keep temperature rise at bay. Looking beyond CO2 emissions and reducing SLCPs is also key to reaching the global development goals and reducing millions of premature deaths from air pollution each year.

At an event during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Coalition partners presented a ‘Multiple Benefits Pathway Approach’ as a way to rapidly reduce near-term warming and achieve national climate priorities while at the same time as fulfilling global climate and development commitments. This approach integrates SLCPs and CO2 reduction, as well as air quality strategies.

Johan Kuylenstierna, Policy Director, at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and a member of the Coalition’s Scientific Advisory Panel, said the approach is important, as it identifies actions and scenarios that produce a range of multiple benefits, emphasising the need to minimise the temperature increase in the near term, as well as achieve the Paris targets later in this century.

“Within the framework of the Paris climate targets we can emphasise the benefits of taking certain actions and how these contribute to national development and other goals,” Dr Kuylenstierna said. “With millions of people dying prematurely from air pollution each year, the benefits of reducing emissions to health alone urge us to act sooner rather than later, and this can also limit warming in the near term.” 

Johan Kuylenstierna: A Multiple Benefits Pathway to the Paris Targets Approach

Johan Kuylenstierna: A Multiple Benefits Pathway to the Paris Targets Approach
Johan Kuylenstierna introduces the Multiple Benefits Pathway Approach at in event during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn.

He emphasised that the integrated nature of the approach allows the impact of different strategies on different development outcomes to be assessed. SEI has developed tools to help countries create emission scenarios and identify benefits of action, to raise national ambitions.

“The Coalition’s sixteen measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutants are an example of the multi-win measures that can only come from this kind of integrated analysis of air quality and climate,” said Nathan Borgford-Parnell, Science Affairs Officer for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Secretariat. “And the success of the Coalition in catalysing action and mobilizing diverse stakeholder groups to address SLCPs serves as a proof of concept for the power of this approach.”

 The Ghana experience

The Ghana Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has used the ‘Long-range Energy Planning system with Integrated Benefits Calculator (LEAP IBC)’, one of SEI’s tools, to encourage more action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). LEAP IBC is a transparent and user-friendly tool for energy and climate mitigation planning that has been adopted by thousands of organizations in nearly 190 countries worldwide. Government agencies, academics, non-profits, consulting companies and energy corporates have been using it. The tool now includes emissions for air pollutants, estimates how these are transformed and transported and the impacts they have on health and agriculture.

 “It was a good exercise to bring together expert communities from different areas like air quality, health and climate,” Daniel Benefor from the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency said. “For the first time, we were able to show our policy makers the direct benefits to Ghana from different mitigation activities.”

Daniel Benefor: The Multiple Benefits Pathway Approach: The Ghana Experience.

Daniel Benefor: The Multiple Benefits Pathway Approach: The Ghana Experience.
Daniel Benefor discusses Ghana's experience at an integrated approach to air pollution and climate change

Ghana used existing infrastructure, data sets and institutional arrangements to create an inventory of GHGs and SLCPs. In a second step they included other air pollutants beyond commonly reported ones like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. Using these data Ghana created policy packages based on scenarios to make the compelling argument for more action. The approach helped quantify benefits like premature deaths avoided, reduction in crop losses, and Ghana’s lower contribution to global temperature rise.

“LEAP IBC is a compelling communications tool, it is local, it is near-term and a powerful way to convince people to take action. LEAP IBC has the potential of being a very powerful tool to advocate for rapid action in the West Africa sub-region,” Dr Benefor concluded.

Norway’s road to the pathway approach

Norway has analysed the near term climate effect and health effects of measures to reduce emissions of short lived climate pollutants and greenhouse gases since 2012. Vigdis Vestreng, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Environment Agency said a key reason for taking an integrated approach was to ensure the country had robust policies that consider both climate change and air pollution

“We invest a lot of resources into implementing policies for both climate change and air pollution and it is important that we get these policies right,” Vigdis Vestreng explained. 

Vigdis Vestreng: Integrated analysis of measures – Norway’s road to a pathway approach

Vigdis Vestreng: Integrated analysis of measures – Norway’s road to a pathway approach
Vigdis Vestreng discusses Norway’s road to a pathway approach

Apart from offering win-win scenarios in terms of climate change and air pollution, the approach can help identify loss-win scenarios. If a government decides to prioritize climate mitigation over air pollution, a so-called loss-win measure, it can formulate policies, using the multiple benefits approach to counteract any resulting negative effects.

“An integrated analysis can answer a multitude of questions and can help us prioritize our reduction measures. It provides our policy makers with a much better basis for decision making,” Dr Vestreng said. “It’s important that we start right now on a pathway that benefits both the long-term Paris temperature targets and the near-term Sustainable Development Goals.”

A pathway to enhanced NDCs

Potentially the approach can also be used to help and strengthen Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). There are various ways that countries can raise ambition in terms of their NDCs. Here the multiple benefits pathway approach could be used a tool for countries to make concrete policy decisions.

“There is a range of options countries can take beyond general emission targets. This can be for example targeting methane emissions from food waste and include short-lived climate pollutants in the coverage of all emissions,” David Waskow, Director of the World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative outlined in Bonn.

David Waskow: Reducing Powerful Climate Forcers: Possible Options For Enhancing NDCs

David Waskow: Reducing Powerful Climate Forcers: Possible Options For Enhancing NDCs
David Waskow on how reducing powerful climate forcers can help enhance NDCs

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition will continue to work with countries and partners like SEI and WRI to further improve the approach. Running practical demonstrations of potential benefits, training decision makers on how to access and use these tools, and finally how to integrate climate and air pollution action, are part of these activities. 

The side event helped inform discussion of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), a set of guidelines to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement. This ‘operating manual’ is set to be finalised at the next Conference of the Parties (COP24) meeting in December in Poland. Overarching themes discussed under the PWAP are climate mitigation, NDCs, stocktaking, adaptation, finance, loss and damage, risk and gender.

According to the WHO, the drivers of climate change are already affecting the health and livelihood of millions of people. Nine out of ten people worldwide breathe polluted air, while every year 7 million deaths are attributed to exposure of both outdoor and indoor house pollution. The Multiple Benefits Pathway Approach recognises that countries need nationally appropriate strategies that both mitigate climate change and improve air quality, health and food security.

“Countries need tools that allow them to not only to calculate their emission scenarios and their contribution to reducing global warming, but also to gauge the benefits of taking action on human health,” said SEI Policy Director Johan Kuylenstierna.

*Near-term warming refers to implementation of measures and warming in the period 2018 to about 2050. 

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