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During this virtual Middle East and North Africa Climate Week side event, representatives from countries, including Morocco, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, and United Arab Emirates, will share their experiences in undertaking integrated climate and air quality assessments to inform their climate plans, their motivation for doing so, and the next steps in operationalizing their integrated plans. Experts will provide the latest research on the multiple co-benefits of climate change mitigation that can be quantified and evaluated within climate change planning, including broader health benefits from diets, water and sanitation, and economic benefits.
This event will highlight the practical ways in which air pollution and short-lived climate pollutants can be integrated into climate change plans, with the aim of engaging other countries in the region, and more widely, to increase their climate ambition by considering local health benefits. The event will also provide insight into how the benefits of integrated planning can be taken forward to drive implementation.
In 2019, 6.6 million premature deaths were attributable to air pollution exposure. In 2020, in many locations, air quality improved due to lockdown measures intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as economies have restarted, air pollution levels rebounded. These rebounds underscore the need for actions that can sustainably reduce air pollution. Some of the most sustainable actions not only reduce air pollution and improve health but also mitigate climate change. In fact, studies estimated over 1 million premature deaths could be avoided annually if actions are taken globally to limit global temperature increases to ‘well below 2ºC’.
The health benefits are achieved from climate change mitigation actions for two reasons. First, air pollutants share many of the same sources as greenhouse gases, and therefore many actions that target major greenhouse gas emitting sources also reduce the co-emitted air pollutants. Second, a subset of pollutants, called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon, and methane, directly contribute to air pollution and its health impacts, and to global temperature increases.
For these health benefits to be realised, however, they need to be prioritised and reflected in countries’ climate change strategies and plans. In 2015, this rarely happened: only a few countries included SLCP mitigation, or air pollution benefits from climate change mitigation in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other relevant plans. But, as countries updated their NDCs, there is a notable change. Several countries in the region are taking practical steps to identify and prioritise those actions that can simultaneously reduce air pollution, improve health while mitigating climate change.