Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa

In November 2022, the Clean Air and Climate Coalition (CCAC), United Nations Environment Programme, and African Union released a landmark Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa.

The assessment shows how African leaders can act quickly across five key areas—transport, residential, energy, agriculture, and waste—to fight climate change, prevent air pollution, and protect human health. 

The multi-faceted development benefits of implementing the actions include:

  • preventing 200,000 premature deaths per year by 2030
  • reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55% and methane emissions by 74% by 2063
  • improving food security by reducing desertification and increasing crop yields for rice, maize, soy, and wheat

All of these benefits come alongside making quick gains in keeping warming below 1.5°C by reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).  

The assessment is particularly significant to Africa as the impacts of short-lived climate pollutants on human and environmental health are pronounced on the continent due to high dependence on solid fuel for cooking – the largest controllable source of black carbon emissions – and the open dumping of waste – a major source of methane emissions.  

This assessment is the first of its kind for Africa. The CCAC coordinated the process for developing the integrated assessment by bringing together a pan-African team of researchers with contributions from international scientists and experts, coordinated by CCAC partner Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to discuss possible solutions, taking into consideration the data, experience and local development priorities. 

The Assessment’s recommendations are closely aligned with key priorities of Agenda 2063 and with the goals and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The below is a summary of the Assessment and the full document can be downloaded via the link above.

Benefits of action:

The African Integrated Assessment recommends that the implementation of 37 measures across 5 key sectors could generate substantial environmental, social, and economic development benefits, in line with the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 -The Africa We Want, the Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), linked to:

•    Substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) and other air pollutants (40-80% by 2063); 
•    Prevention of 200,000 premature deaths per year by 2030 and 880,000 deaths per year by 2063 due to outdoor and indoor air pollution; 
•    Improving food security by reducing desertification and increasing crop yields for rice, maize, soy and wheat; 
•    Limiting the negative effects of regional climate change on rainfall, especially in the Sahel region, and temperature in parts of Africa.

Political commitment

The Eighteenth Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held in Dakar, Senegal in September 2022 noted:
’38. Note the completion of the Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa and its report, in response to AMCEN decision 17/2’ and ‘urged African countries to support further development and implementation of the 37 recommended measures as a continent-wide Africa Clean Air Programme, coordinated by strong country-led initiatives, cascaded to the Regional Economic Communities and higher levels of policy.’

UNEA 6 in February 2024 ended with member states having approved a resolution to support the implementation of regional air quality agreements and assessments, including the Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa and its proposed Africa Clean Air Program. UNEP/EA.6/L.13 Acknowledges that improving air quality can result in climate co-benefits and that climate change mitigation efforts can result in air quality co-benefits.

Call to Action 

The Africa Assessment recommends provisioning a budget at local, national, regional and continental levels for further development and implementation of the Africa Clean Air programme through strategic partnerships and resource allocations.

Most of the recommended measures have already been successfully implemented somewhere on the continent in five key sectors: transport, residential, energy and industry, agriculture, and waste.

Examples of such efforts assessed by the Assessment are provided below. Yet, to roll them out requires cooperation at local to continental scales. This can be achieved through the continent-wide Africa Clean Air program supported by the African Union in collaboration with the assessment partners. The policy recommendations for each sector below have been formulated as a starting point for continental strategies for development in the context of air pollution and climate change. Together, these policies may deliver vital health and environmental benefits and avoid serious air pollution and climate change impacts across Africa.


Why does it matter? 

Most people around the world are exposed to air pollution from the transport sector, while also lacking access to affordable and safe transport. Health impacts associated with air pollution range from cough and chest infections to cancers, cardiovascular diseases, preterm childbirth and learning difficulties in children, and premature death. Cleaning up traffic and providing safer, more joined-up, and sustainable transport options benefits not just the population’s health but can stimulate economic growth as well.

Africa is experiencing a high motorization rate because of high urbanisation and economic growth. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will result in further growth in the transport sector and potentially a worsening of climate emissions and air pollution in a business-as-usual scenario. Cutting emissions from the transport sector has therefore been prioritised by many African countries and sub-regions, especially to reap the health benefits.

Which measures are important to implement? 

The Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa shows that in the short term, considerable health benefits can be achieved by 2030 by speeding up the movement towards advanced emission controls and banning older vehicles and their importation. Starting now, electric vehicles, charged using renewable energy, can bring large health and climate benefits by 2063. Increased use of hybrid vehicles, electrified road and rail freight options and non-motorised transport add to the health and economic benefits obtainable. The Assessment shows that the measures in the transport sector are particularly effective at reducing nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), contributing about half of the estimated NOx emission reduction across all sectors by 2030, and of carbon dioxide, about 30% of the estimated reduction by 2063. 

These mitigation measures are in line with key priorities of Agenda 2063, specifically the areas of communications and infrastructure connectivity and the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

Examples of action 

•    In February 2020, environment and energy ministers of all 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and developed a comprehensive set of regulations for introducing cleaner fuels and vehicles in the region. These were adopted as regionally harmonised standards by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in September of the same year. The East African Community also became the first sub-region to adopt and implement regionally harmonised low Sulphur diesel fuel standards in 2015 and vehicle standards in 2022. 
•    Many larger cities on the continent are planning Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors to improve public transportation. Efforts to link these BRT corridors with safe and adequate infrastructure for non-motorized transport – walking and cycling infrastructure - are being spearheaded in Addis Ababa, Kigali and more cities. Soot-free buses, including electric buses, are being introduced to operate on these BRT corridors to mitigate emissions. 
•    Green freight has been identified as a major mitigation strategy by most countries with a modal shift from road to rail, electrification of both rail and road freight, and cleaner or alternative fuels planned. The Eastern Africa Northern Corridor, which links more than 5 landlocked countries to the Kenyan Seaport of Mombasa, developed the first-ever green  strategy for 2017-2021 that is currently under revision.
•    Many African countries are also taking action to promote electric vehicles. Many countries have introduced fiscal incentives to promote their uptake and supportive infrastructure for charging, enacted requisite standards and regulations to ensure quality, and are carrying out demonstration pilots before rollout.
•    In most sub-Saharan African cities, where transport is dominated by pedestrians, a transformation is occurring to accommodate the growing number of two-wheelers. Electric cycling has become available and provides affordable mobility, substantially reducing pollution, reducing over-reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing traffic congestion.

Residential Energy

Why does it matter? 

The use of biomass and other solid fuels for cooking is a significant source of household and ambient air pollution, a silent killer at home. Access to clean fuels for cooking, lighting and heating in residential and commercial sectors like schools, hospitals and other institutions, varies considerably across Africa. 

In North Africa, the proportion of the population with access to clean cooking fuels reached 85 per cent in 2014, but in sub-Saharan countries, particularly eastern, central and western Africa, the proportion of the population with access to clean cooking fuels was only 18 per cent in 2020, with considerable variation amongst countries. This calls for policy action to support the transition to cleaner, accessible, reliable household energy at an affordable cost, with a special focus on poor households. Over one-third of the total number of premature deaths from household air pollution in Africa were estimated to be infant deaths. 

The Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa shows that in 2063, 12,000 additional infant and 70,000 adult premature deaths could be avoided through the implementation of the mitigation measures focused on SLCPs by introducing cleaner fuels and associated appliances. 

A faster transition is noted in the area of lighting. Many countries have introduced clean lighting solutions through favourable and innovative financing models at different investment scales that suit different socio-economic groups. The solar lighting systems sold on the “pay as you go” (PAYG) scheme, for example, have made some villages paraffin-free as households appreciate the convenience of affordable, accessible solar lighting products backed by local artisan services for repairs.

Which measures are important to implement? 

The Assessment found that a transition to clean cooking in Africa could be accelerated through policies that enable a transition to more efficient biomass stoves and using electricity, natural gas, biogas, LPG or other cleaner cooking fuels. Other measures in the household sector include clean lighting, efficient air conditioning, efficient refrigeration and, more broadly, energy-efficient household appliances. The Assessment shows that the measures in the residential sector are particularly effective at reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon emissions by approximately 60 and 68 per cent, respectively, of the possible emission reduction across all sectors by 2030. Emission reduction in this sector, therefore, contributes significantly to the reduction in health impacts associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution by 2063.

Examples of action 

•    Kenya and Uganda initiated projects to supply poor households with single-burner LPG stoves. The Kenyan programme, to be rolled out in 2024, will target a small number of pilot households for a start. Previous attempts to introduce LPG in boarding schools in Kenya faced challenges of sporadic funding despite support from local banks. Trials to promote the uptake of cooking using electricity are underway through e-cooking hubs in several counties, making information and experience on cost-effectiveness and other benefits of cooking using electricity publicly to promote cleaner fuels at scale are ongoing in countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Cameroon. 

•    Forty per cent of African countries have adopted mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for air conditioning. Tunisia has moved closer to 50 per cent saving on lighting energy with the preparation of new mandatory MEPS and label regulations, higher performance, and eco-efficient LED lighting products across all sectors. Rwanda now has a regional testing centre. 

•    Solar lighting has also been introduced into some of the regions’ poorest homes through the networking capacity of local community banks. Families in one of Nigeria’s states will profit from solar power for the first time as a result of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) project providing a local institution and standard Microfinance Bank (MFB), with technical assistance. 

Energy Sector and Industry

Why does it matter? 

Extraction and combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation and energy use in industry and transport make a substantial contribution to climate change and worsening air quality in Africa. Apart from carbon dioxide, thermal power plants emit particulate matter directly, and also sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, which form secondary particulate matter in ambient air, involving ammonia from agricultural sources. Emissions from industrial activities are caused by the handling of fuels and material and production in industrial processes (e.g., petrochemicals, charcoal, bricks, cement and steel production). Fossil fuel production in the oil and gas industry is a major source of methane and other volatile air pollutants that contribute to the production of ground-level ozone in the atmosphere and various pollution and climate impacts. 

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Africa are a growing source of emissions, and although this industrial sub-sector poses a challenge for emission reductions, implementing certain control measures can help minimise its impact. Emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in connection with air conditioning and refrigeration also make a growing contribution to climate change in the industrial and commercial sectors.

Which measures are important to implement? 

The Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa examines the potential for increasing the use of renewable energy in Africa, reducing methane fugitive emissions from oil and gas industry, increasing efficiency and reducing energy intensity, and reducing fugitive HFC emissions from cooling. 

Renewables: The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Africa is home to 60 per cent of the best solar resources globally, yet it has only 1 per cent of installed solar PV capacity. It also estimates that by utilising solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal resources, more than 80 per cent of new power generation capacity in Africa could be provided by renewable sources in 2030. According to the Africa Energy Outlook, the Sustainable Africa Scenario implies that 1.3 million jobs could be created by 2030, in addition to those that result from expanded energy access. 

Industry: In Africa, there is a major opportunity to address methane emissions reductions from fossil fuel extraction. Much of the mitigation in this sector could be done at low costs, including through strategies such as (i) implementing leak detection and repair programmes of oil and gas facilities and infrastructure, (ii) replacing vent by-design-equipment, and (iii) reducing flaring and only allow high combustion efficiency flares where necessary. Energy efficiency gains and emission reductions can also be achieved across several industries, including charcoal production and brickmaking. In addition, all industrial development must be accompanied by emissions control and strict enforcement of emission standards for particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Refrigeration and air conditioning: Since 2016, the production and consumption of HFC refrigerants have been managed under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. African countries will freeze their consumption of HFCs in 2024 and begin phasing it down through four steps, concluding in an 80% reduction compared to their baseline in 2045. Emissions of HFCs, however, continue to be managed by the UNFCCC, through which countries pledge their mitigation ambitions and action through NDCs under the Paris Agreement. As of 2022, the inclusion of HFCs in NDCs varies across Africa, but the Kigali agreement has seen HFCs gaining attention since 2016.

Examples of action 

•    Many African governments are realising the considerable potential for utilising solar, wind,  hydropower and geothermal energy sources and have established policies and targets for renewable energy expansion under their NDCs within the Paris Agreement. These include Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa.
•    Within the West African sub-region, ECOWAS has established regional cooperatives to promote regional clean energy integration. Ghana has put in by 2030, with the goal of making clean and modern energy accessible to all. Morocco's current target calls for 52 per cent of renewable energy in total installed capacity by 2030. 
•    Seventeen African countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge to significantly reduce methane emissions in the energy sector (oil and gas) as well as other sectors by 2030. Nigeria is the first country in Africa to regulate methane emissions in the energy sector in its NDC. The country committed to reducing methane emissions by 60 per cent and achieving a net zero target by 2060. 
•    The Kigali Agreement to the Montreal Protocol has seen hydrofluorocarbons gaining attention in African countries since 2016, and African countries are including them in their NDCs under the Paris Agreement. Around 40 per cent of African countries have adopted efficiency standards and labelling for cooling equipment or are planning to do so, and around 20 per cent for refrigeration and lighting. 
•    Rwanda states that its mitigation measures to increase the efficiency of its brick kilns will increase the resilience of the brick manufacturing industry and reduce reliance on biomass energy and related air pollution.


Why does it matter?

 Agriculture, and its associated food systems and value chains, is the key driver of Africa’s socio-economic development despite mega challenges attributed to climate change, air pollution, loss of biological diversity, public debts, global and continental geo-political conflicts and wars. Through the climate change and air pollution lens, opportunities for positive transformation of Africa’s Agricultural systems to spur development are numerous, including the establishment of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2018, which is projected to spur a 6.7 billion dollar spending by consumers by 2023 and increasing to 29 trillion dollars by 2050. This increase in consumption will require a corresponding increase in climate-smart agricultural productivity.

Which measures are important to implement? 

The Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa shows that emission reductions of methane in the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors in 2030 and 2063 could be 51 and 72 per cent lower, respectively, compared to the baseline, with improved livestock diets and animal health being key measures. However, the largest contribution to these reductions is linked to consumer behavioural changes, such as more balanced meat intake across the population and reduced food waste at the point of consumption. As methane emissions are associated with the production of ground-level ozone in the atmosphere, these measures would give important human health, crop yield and climate benefits. Further air quality and human health benefits can be obtained through the elimination of open burning of agricultural residues by 2040 and reducing black carbon emissions from the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors by half.

Improved manure management through switching to composting, anaerobic digestion and daily spread is linked to improved air quality through reduced ammonia emissions and reduced climate change through reduced nitrous oxide emissions. Important co-benefits can also be obtained for alternate wetting and drying for flooded rice fields, with improved management, saving irrigation water, improving yield and reducing GHG emissions simultaneously.

Examples of action 

•    Breeding and improved feed programme in Africa have been successful in increasing the efficiency of livestock systems. In Ethiopia, a breeding programme for sheep farmers has increased livestock efficiency and resulted in a 20 per cent rise in income. A national programme for livestock development in Senegal has promoted dairy cattle breeds that are well adapted to local conditions and have proved to be much more efficient and productive.

•    Improved manure management is also on the rise as it is important for improving agricultural yields, restoration of degraded agricultural land and promoting soil-carbon sequestration. The African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES) outlines how scaling up agronomic technologies and practices for nutrient use, and management developed for African farming systems have the potential to help low input systems become more productive while reducing emissions intensity.

•    Ethiopia is one of the African countries to substantially increase its spending on public agricultural research. It has half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural extension workers and now has the highest rate of agricultural growth of any country in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2000.

•    Alternative wetting and drying (AWD) in rice fields has been successfully validated in different climatic zones in West Africa. As the focus of AWD implementation is often water saving rather than GHG reduction, work is ongoing to promote monitoring to ensure optimum outcomes for air quality and water saving.

•    Ghana is the first country globally to launch a project and issue an authorisation statement for the transfer of mitigation outcomes as part of cooperative approaches under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The Ghana climate-smart rice project will support the training of thousands of rice farmers, covering nearly 80% of Ghana’s rice production, in sustainable agricultural practices, leading to significant reductions in methane emissions.

•    Crop residue burning is being reduced by promoting alternative uses of the residues such as up-cycling post-harvest waste into fuel briquette production in Kenya and biochar production from crop waste and testing biochar-based fertiliser with subsistence crops in countries like Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

•    Innovative financing of climate and air quality management programmes through green bonds was explored in Nigeria. Interest-free loans for climate-friendly agricultural practices like solar-powered irrigation were introduced in Kenya through Equity Bank. The West and Central Africa greening of the financial sector has included low-emission projects by smallholder farmers.





Waste Management

Why does it matter? 

Africa’s waste is increasingly seen as a resource recovery opportunity currently valued by UNEP at US$ 8 billion a year. However, curbing waste mismanagement and enhancing circularity in Africa constitutes yet unharnessed economic, climate and air quality opportunities, as more than three-quarters of households are without access to basic waste management. 

UNICEF also estimates that 779 million people in Africa lack basic sanitation services (including 208 million who still practise open defecation). Thus, accelerated actions from the waste sector, particularly from multiple actors, if realised, will see multiple benefits in climate change and health as waste contributes GHGs, methane and black carbon. Furthermore, the open burning of waste accounts for more than a quarter of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in the air, significantly contributing to ill health and premature deaths in Africa. 

Additionally, enhancing waste mismanagement and circularity reduces toxic pollution from waste in water and soil, therefore contributing to better human health while decreasing effects on biodiversity and food security. There is an added socioeconomic dimension where access to these services is available to less than 16 per cent of the population, and those without it are among the poorest and most vulnerable communities, living in low-income or informal settlements. These same communities work as informal waste pickers in unhealthy conditions, lacking access to basic health and social security and exposed to high pollution levels with minimal safety and protection.

Which measures are important to implement? 

The Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa shows that a combination of best practice landfill management to reduce open burning of waste and methane capture at landfills, together with more development measures such as diversion of organic waste to composting or biogas and reduced organic waste generation by reducing food waste can deliver a 90 per cent reduction in black carbon emissions from waste burning by 2063. Emissions of PM2.5 are also reduced by measures related to reducing waste burning by 30–88 per cent by 2063. Methane emissions are not only reduced by measures related to reduced waste burning but also by solid and liquid waste management. Emissions can be reduced by 79 per cent by 2063, with the solid waste disposal and liquid waste measures having the greatest effect. For this to happen, all urban areas would need to be connected to sewage treatment plants that have methane treatment and capture. It is assumed that different systems will be developed in rural areas which will have low methane generation.

Examples of action 

•    The African Clean Cities Platform (ACCP), which is active in 90 cities across 42 countries in Africa, was established in 2017 to share knowledge on waste management in Africa and to promote the realization of SDG targets on waste management.

•    SWITCH Africa Green, a programme developed in 2013 to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in six African countries by building their capacity in green business and eco-entrepreneurship, has recorded success. In Burkina Faso, 3,700 tonnes of waste were diverted from uncontrolled dumpsites, of which 2,200 tonnes went to composting and recycling activities. In Ghana, 20,000 tonnes of e-waste were recycled, directly and indirectly benefiting around 2,100 Ghanaians living in Accra. In Mauritius, 2,677 tonnes of waste were diverted annually from landfills and used locally as raw materials.

•    The Kenya Association of Manufacturers recognizes the key role SMEs play in actualising environmental policies. As Kenya looks to implement the 2022 Sustainable Waste Management Act and the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations (2023) to prevent pollution from products or by waste arising therefrom, SMEs, both formal and informal, are central to policy development and key to innovation and technology uptake.

•    Zoomlion Ghana, a private company established in 2006, is a public-private partnership venture to provide waste management services and deal with the serious challenge of waste management in Ghana. It has introduced efficient and cleaner equipment and a fleet of waste collection vehicles.

•    Action already planned or taken by several African nations is described in their NDCs through their conditional and/or unconditional contributions. The NDC submitted by the Central African Republic (CAR) mentions the development of hygiene and waste action strategies for solids and liquids in rural and urban areas. Cameroon mentions the use of waste as a way of producing electricity and further mentions mitigation measures such as producing biogas, other fuels and compost from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).