Short-lived climate pollutants and the COVID-19 economic recovery

The choices that governments make to restart their economies, including the long-term social, economic, and environmental benefits they seek to achieve, will be key to emerging from the pandemic stronger and better than before. 

Actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons, and tropospheric ozone can play an important role in economic recovery since they can deliver on immediate economic goals, including job creation, improved public health, and increased food security, and contribute to achieving longer-term climate and sustainable development goals.

Short-lived climate pollutant mitigation actions are also well within reach, with simple and affordable interventions like the widespread use of clean cookstoves, eliminating methane leaks from oil and gas production, and banning open agricultural burning. Keep reading to find out how some countries are addressing these pollutants in their recovery plans and to find additional resources for action.


SLCP mitigation in recovery plans

Many governments are establishing economic recovery plans for the energy, agriculture, transport, and waste sectors, which are among the largest sources of SLCP emissions. Here are just a few examples:

Canada: Oil and gas methane emissions

An oil pump jack in a farm field in Alberta, Canada.

As part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the national government is providing up to C$1.72 billion (US$1.29 billion) to the Alberta Orphan Well Association and the provincial governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia to clean up orphan and inactive oil and gas wells and reduce methane emissions. Although actions to reduce methane emissions may create fewer construction and manufacturing jobs per dollar invested when compared to renewable technologies such as solar, these actions can help retain and provide jobs where they are needed most.

The investments to clean up orphaned and abandoned wells is expected to maintain approximately 5,200 jobs in Alberta alone. Canada has also established a new C$750 million (US$563 million) Emissions Reduction Fund to help onshore and offshore oil and gas companies “invest in green solutions,” reduce methane emissions, and retain jobs in the sector. Canada’s investments in the oil and gas sector also support the national emissions reduction target—to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40–45 percent by 2025 relative to 2012 levels.

Nigeria: Reducing air pollution from household energy 

CCAC solar energy project in Nigeria

As part of an overall federal government stimulus package of ₦2.3 trillion (US$6 billion), the Nigerian government has committed ₦240 billion (US$63 million) in the clean energy sector to provide solar power to 5 million households currently not connected to the national grid and to create 250,000 jobs.

The Nigerian government has also committed ₦90 billion (US$236 million) for a national program to promote domestic use of compressed natural gas (CNG) and ₦23.4 billion (US$61.4 million) to convert 30 million homes from dirty fuels (kerosene, charcoal, and diesel) to liquified petroleum gas (LPG), applying more LPG in agriculture, power generation, transport, and industry. The conversion to LPG will help create 1 million jobs and will also reduce black carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. (Ideally, CNG and LPG will be used as transition fuels before the implementation of renewable technologies, thus minimizing carbon lock-in.)

New Zealand: Waste initiatives 

Rubbish bins in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: Michal Klajban

As part of New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund, the government is investing NZ$124 million (US$83 million) in several waste initiatives across the country. The initiatives, which may reduce methane emissions (though this has not been explicitly stated), will increase and expand the waste levy to divert material from landfills and will collect better data about the waste that is created and disposed to support better management.

According to the New Zealand government, “Increased investment in waste minimization and resource recovery infrastructure will ensure New Zealand emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic with a far better resource recovery and recycling system, creating hundreds of permanent jobs and incomes across New Zealand.”


Korea: E-mobility

Electric vehicle charging station in Seoul. Photo:

A key element of the Republic of Korea’s economic recovery plan, the Korean New Deal, is to support future ecomobility. Specifically, the plan aims to phase out old diesel cars and support the provision of electric and hydrogen vehicles “to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and to enhance competitiveness in the future car market.” The eco-mobility work will be supported through the investment of ₩20.3 trillion (US$18 billion) by 2025, which the government has indicated will create 151,000 new jobs.

The goals of the plan include: increasing the number of electric vehicles (passenger cars, buses, and freight vehicles), supported by the installation of charging facilities; increasing the number of hydrogen vehicles, supported by the installation of charging facilities as well as fuel cell plants and other hydrogen distribution infrastructure; scrapping diesel vehicles; and transitioning freight cars and school buses to liquified petroleum gas.


European Union: Agriculture methane emissions

Cattle grazing in Burgundy, France

The European Union (EU) supports a green transition through its economic recovery. It includes a €15 billion (approximately US$17.5 billion) reinforcement for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which helps rural areas make structural changes in line with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, among others. Specific elements of the Farm to Fork Strategy that will reduce methane emissions include halving per capita food waste by 2030, creating a circular bio-based economy (including biodigesters), promoting sustainable and innovative feed additives for livestock, and facilitating the shift to a healthy, sustainable diet by reducing the intake of red meat.

The EU’s recovery plan and Farm to Fork Strategy also dovetails with its recently released methane reduction strategy. The EU’s methane strategy highlights the range of methane mitigation technologies and practices available in the agriculture sector, recognizing the importance of reducing methane to achieve the EU’s 2030 and 2050 economy-wide emissions reduction targets.

Related resources