The economic benefits of reducing short-lived climate pollutants

Solutions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants can spur job creation and bring direct economic benefits for businesses and governments. Here's how.

The combined economic impacts of climate change and air pollution are astronomical. 

Cutting short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), black carbon and tropospheric ozone, can rapidly reduce the rate of warming between now and 2050 and significantly lessen the climate and air pollution impacts on health and food security.

This can achieve outcomes relevant to many economic recovery goals, including immediate economic benefits from job creation and productivity, to increased household income – as well as lasting ancillary benefits from improved public health, reduced poverty and inequality, and lessened climate change impacts.

Cutting short-lived climate pollutants makes good economic sense. Here’s why:

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1. The costs of inaction are huge

We have to act now. As we continue to release climate and air pollutants into the atmosphere, the cost and effort to reduce them becomes more challenging. Delayed action only increases the eventual price tag to ensure food security, improved health, better livelihoods, and a safe climate.

Estimates on the economic impact of climate change range from 2% to 10% of global GDP annually. Ambient air pollution costs an estimated 4% to 5% of global GDP each year. The economic costs of climate change and air pollution disproportionately impact the poor and most vulnerable.

The health and food security benefits of acting on air pollution however far outweigh the policy costs of taking action.

Captured methane is a source of revenue for companies

2. The solutions to cut emissions are low or no-cost 

Actions to reduce SLCPs can be carried out at no or low cost using existing technologies.

Half of all methane and black carbon emissions reductions can be achieved with measures that result in net cost savings over their technical lifetime. For example, methane emissions from oil and gas facilities are a marketable commodity if captured.

The CCAC supports actions using technology that results in financial gain and emissions reductions.

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3. Immediate economic benefits

Cutting SLCPs brings immediate and direct economic benefits for individuals, businesses, and national governments.

For example, sealing leaks from gas infrastructure reduces methane and improves cost efficiency for oil and gas companies. Installing energy efficient and low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigeration reduces hydrofluorocarbon emissions, cuts energy costs for grocers and increases access to cold supply chains in developing countries.

Reducing ground-level ozone and black carbon emissions also provides tremendous health-related economic benefits.

Rice straw

4. Creates jobs and enables workers 

Solutions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants can spur job creation and related economic benefits. Building biogas generation facilities to capture methane, installing HFC-alternative cooling systems, detecting and repairing methane leaks in oil and gas facilities, are all job creation opportunities. Clean cooking solutions will free up hours that women and children use to collect fuel, enabling them to work or go to school.

Clean cooking

5. Development benefits far outweigh the costs 

Even if there are up-front costs to action, the benefits from cutting short-lived climate pollutants far outweigh these costs and make them worthwhile very quickly once action is taken.

Within days to a decade, cutting SLCPs will prevent millions of premature deaths from air pollution-related illnesses like respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Cutting methane emissions can prevent the formation of tropospheric ozone and save 52 million tons of crop losses every year.

The same cuts will reduce the rate of warming and lessen climate change impacts that could force between 3 million to 16 million people into extreme poverty, mostly through impacts on agriculture and food prices.

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6. Integrated solutions create efficient policy action 

Integrated climate and air quality policies save money, avoid duplication, prevent unforeseen negative consequences and increase potential social, environmental, and economic benefits. A 2019 CCAC report with country case studies shows how integrating approaches to climate, environment and development (also called co-governance) are being used to build consensus and rally support for low-carbon climate strategies by providing immediate clean air and development benefits.

How we’re driving action

The CCAC is the only global organisation dedicated to cutting short-lived climate pollutants to stabilize the climate, limit warming to 1.5°C, and drastically cut air pollution. Our partners are the driving force of this work.

We drive action by testing, implementing and sharing solutions, raising awareness, and engaging with leaders at the highest levels. Our Trust Fund provides resources for technical assistance and capacity building in developing countries, and targeted catalytic actions that transform sectors and reduce their emissions.