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Until very recently, countries around the world approached the twin crises of air pollution and climate change as separate, unrelated problems. Despite the fact that many air pollutants and greenhouse gases stem from the same sources, different ministries (and sometimes different divisions within those ministries) were often tasked with solving these problems. This meant that sectors and divisions were unable to coordinate their efforts, causing them to duplicate action and miss out on opportunities to share ideas, expertise, and funding sources. These siloed issues often focused on one set of impacts, such as the chronic health conditions associated with air pollution, without taking into account the longer term but equally dire impacts that these pollutants had on global warming.
At the same time, governments around the world were ramping up efforts on climate change, as action on the imminent and catastrophic effects of planetary warming became increasingly urgent. These efforts, while vital, often focused exclusively on reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) without taking into account the immense potential to rapidly reduce the rate of warming and improve air quality by simultaneously targeting short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon.
“In the past, our mitigation targets were mostly geared towards greenhouse gas emissions, which meant that we weren’t capturing the multiple benefits that can be accrued by reducing short-lived pollutants,” said Rafael Sarji Ngumbu of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency. “Benefits like a clean environment, reduced warming, reduced sea-level rise, safe health, and improved agricultural productivity.”
The CCAC entered the picture in 2012 and worked with countries to show how integrated planning can tackle the climate and clean air crises at the same time, while maximising resources, benefits, and impact.
“Ten years ago, a lot of countries didn’t have a foundational grounding of what their short-lived climate pollutant emissions were, nor the major sources,” said Chris Malley, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute who has help deliver the CCAC’s national policy and planning support. “I think a key achievement is that each of the countries that have engaged in national planning through the CCAC have a better idea of exactly where they need to focus and the opportunities and benefits from reducing SLCPs in priority sectors.”
Many countries were operating on an even shakier foundation, without much knowledge of what SLCPs were at all.
“The Climate and Clean Air Coalition put short-lived climate pollutants on the map,” said Seraphine Haeussling, the Programme Manager at the CCAC. “It helped introduce the world to their immense mitigation potential and multiple benefits, and then developed a comprehensive and effective approach for countries to act on that potential by integrating action on climate change and air pollution.”
Map: Countries receiving CCAC national planning support. The CCAC has worked with 37 countries to date.
The CCAC’s unique approach helps countries integrate their fractured, de-centralized efforts to improve air pollution, mitigate climate change, and achieve development goals. The CCAC helps countries bring together academics, politicians, the private sector, non-profit leaders, and other experts to create an emissions inventory and identify and prioritise effective and powerful mitigation measures that target key polluting sectors. A national action plan is then developed for approval and endorsement by high-level political leaders. In some cases, SLCP mitigation actions are added to other relevant plans and strategies. These strategies provide a roadmap for mitigation, clearing the way for fast and effective action on SLCPs.
The process is led by each country, which means they can develop approaches relevant to their national context. This produces effective and locally relevant action. Focusing on development gains and air pollution is crucial because it provides direct benefits for citizens while contributing to global climate action, critical for resource-strapped countries facing major health and development challenges and who have contributed negligibly to climate emissions.
“For the country to accomplish its carbon neutrality ambitions it has to have some sort of incentive: what does it gain from diminishing emissions, being such a small country and not really contributing a lot to climate change,” said Luis Fernando Victor Gallardo, who worked with the CCAC to develop Costa Rica’s SLCP models. “It’s important to highlight that mitigation is not just a burden that countries have to carry because we're doomed by climate change. It can also be an opportunity for society to become more productive and more sustainable.”
Thirty-seven countries have worked with the CCAC to strengthen their national institutions, increase awareness of SLCPs, and produce an initial emissions assessment that maps major SLCPs, air pollution, and greenhouse gases. A host of regional and global national planning workshops, trainings, webinars and online events have helped countries learn from each other, build capacity, and exchange best practises to integrate SLCP mitigation into national planning.
These are just a few examples of the countries that the CCAC has supported through to the development and endorsement of a national SLCP plan.
Ghana: Building whole of government support
With the CCAC’s help, Ghana aligned its national action plan on short-lived climate pollutants with its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and included several measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
The plan outlines 16 measures to mitigate short-lived climate pollutants, including getting people access to 2 million fuel-efficient cookstoves. Other measures include having ten percent of electricity come from renewable sources like solar, reducing forest burning by 40 percent (a practice used for farmland and also to produce charcoal for cooking), and implementing soot-free buses, particularly in the capital city Accra.
Daniel Benefor, who worked on the CCAC national planning process for the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency, said it helped ensure increased buy-in because it brought everyone who mattered to the table – the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, the National Development Planning Commision, the Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Health.
They collated relevant local data and used the ‘Long-range Energy Planning system with Integrated Benefits Calculator (LEAP IBC)’, an integrated energy planning and climate change mitigation assessment tool, to calculate the benefits of emissions reductions.
“The process helped us discuss and agree which data sets to use and which information was important to include in the analysis,” Benefor said. “It is important to build consensus from the outset because once you have results from the analysis someone needs to own the results. And it was these very ministries that needed to own the results and create policies in their respective sectors and then implement these policies.”
The work also helped increase government buy-in by showing how SLCP reduction directly benefits Ghana and Ghanaians, including through improved local air quality, public health, and food production. Benefor said that while ministries usually look at the development benefits of their actions, they never thought of assessing the co-benefits.
“Ghana is a developing country, and we have a clearly defined agenda to help make Ghanaians prosperous, but that agenda must happen on a pathway that is sustainable,” Benefor said. “The planning analysis brought the climate perspective to this long-term agenda. It was interesting to see the extent of the benefits we could get for Ghanaians by honouring our existing commitments and implementing additional policies. We saw that despite being a small country with low emissions that our actions also contribute to the global climate effort. The process helped us provide decision makers with evidence of climate and air quality impacts and the many benefits of acting.”
Benefor said Ghana was now focused on finding resources to implement their plans effectively. “This is the only way that we can get the benefits that we have envisaged,” he said.
Maldives: Demonstrating the multiple benefits of action
The Maldives is a prime example of a country that will experience multiplying effects when it comes to air pollution and human health as a result of their ambitious action on climate change — important positive byproducts given that the Maldives has made a negligible contribution to the emissions creating the climate crisis.
The Maldives is made up of 1,200 islands but almost half the population lives on just one. Male, the capital city, is one of the densest cities in the world and has an air pollution problem fueled by cars, ferries, and burning trash.
The CCAC has supported the country’s Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Transportation to act on this crisis by building the capacity of these institutions to understand the scope and sources of the problem and to identify priorities for action over the past seven years.
“We want to monitor and understand what kind of air we’re breathing in. We want to ensure the air remains clean and healthy for our population,” said Dr. Hassan Rasheed Hussein, the country’s Minister of the Environment. “We want the Maldives to have the best air for the people, that’s our ambition.”
The CCAC first helped the Maldives do this by funding the establishment of an air quality division in the Ministry of the Environment. The Coalition then worked with this division to develop the country’s first ever National Action Plan on Air Pollutants which outlines 28 mitigation measures to tackle emissions in three major sectors: waste, electricity, and transport. The Action Plan was endorsed not only by the Ministry of the Environment, a critical step in ensuring implementation, it was also launched by the Ministry of Transport.
A full 22 out of 28 of these measures were then integrated into the Maldives’ NDCs. If these are fully implemented, they will reduce fine particulate (PM 2.5) emissions by 35 per cent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 24 per cent.
Another major outcome of the National Action Plan was that it identified the air pollution benefits that the Maldives would get from its climate change mitigation activities, showing that these actions wouldn’t just reduce the country’s negligible contribution to climate change, it would also reduce particulate matter (the pollutant with the largest effect on respiratory and cardiovascular health) by 60 per cent.
The National Action Plan identified the actions that would lead to the largest reductions in air pollution across the Maldives, but particularly in highly polluted Male, while also reducing climate impacts. The two key actions identified were the improvement of fuel quality and the implementation and enforcement of vehicle and vessel emission standards, which the Maldives will be implementing based on the air quality plan.
Speaking at a ceremony to launch the plan in 2019, Dr. Hussein said the government of the Maldives was committed to taking concrete and strategic action to address the issues of air pollution to protect the environment and safeguard human health. “Until recently, scientific and political conversations around climate change and air pollution had taken place separately. However, it is increasingly recognized that both issues are closely linked.”
“The development of the National Action Plan on Air Pollutants has helped the Maldives achieve three things,” said Aminath Maiha Hameed, who worked on the plan at the Ministry of Environment. “We now know what air pollutants are emitted by different sources and can now track this as the Action Plan is implemented. We have also shown that efforts to meet our international climate change commitments can provide substantial local benefits to Maldivians through improved air quality. Finally, we have a clear roadmap of the additional actions needed to further improve air quality.”
Côte d'Ivoire: Maximizing climate and development impacts
Côte D’Ivoire is an example of the lasting, and multiplying, effect of the CCAC’s national planning process, which brings together different government ministries that used to work in isolation. By building connections across the ministries — as well as nonprofits and academia — Côte D’Ivoire was able to develop a short-lived climate pollutant plan that had widespread government buy-in and maximum developmental impact.
This relatively small country in West Africa suffers disproportionately from air pollution. According to the World Health Organisation, it caused 34,000 premature deaths in 2016, which included 8,000 children.
In 2015, the CCAC and the country’s Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development started working together to develop a National SLCP Action Plan.
With support from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the team developed an integrated analysis of SLCPs and greenhouse gases to better understand the common sources which helped identify five priority areas: transportation, household cooking and lighting, industry, waste, oil and gas, and agriculture. After analysing each sector they developed sector-specific mitigation measures and synthesised them into a National SLCP Action Plan which has the potential to reduce black carbon emissions by 59 per cent and methane by 34 per cent.
That technical analysis was then used as the basis for Cote D’Ivoire’s NDC revision process.
“The supporting and strengthening and enhancing capacity within Cote D’Ivoire has had a lasting effect on their ability to plan and increase actions on climate change and air pollution more broadly. It’s had a bigger effect than just the development of that SLCP plan in isolation,” said Malley. “This is really important because it creates consistency between these different planning processes that countries undertake — you're no longer in a position where you're having one set of consultants develop an analysis for climate change, one set of consultants for SLCP planning and air quality. You can instead use this analysis to feed into multiple planning processes, which means that it’s more nationally-owned and that there’s more likelihood you will develop a plan that is able to be implemented because there’s a large amount of buy-in by different stakeholders in different sectors.”
Just as integrating climate and clean air work has multiplying effects, so does collaboration across sectoral Ministries, Departments and Agencies, which is why the in-depth collaboration across government to develop this plan was so integral to its success.
Nigeria: The immediate, life-saving potential of SLCP action
Nigeria exemplified the ways that the co-benefits of mitigating short-lived climate pollutants can help raise climate ambition when it included a dedicated section on SLCPs in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), citing that bold action could save 30,000 lives every year from health issues like asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. The NDC committed to doing so by reducing black carbon by 42 per cent, methane by 28 per cent, and HFCs by 2 per cent by 2030, all of which will not only improve air pollution in Nigeria but will also help reduce the country’s climate impacts.
“Nigeria is committed to playing its part to mitigate global climate change,” said Halima Bawa-Bwari, Acting Director of the Climate Change Department in Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of the Environment. “However, it is important that Nigerians also benefit from implementing this commitment. The actions in the residential sector in particular can deliver tangible health benefits, especially for Nigerian children, which makes the implementation of these actions even more important.”
Integrating climate change and air pollution into Nigeria’s existing development priorities— such as reducing poverty and improving health— means that the benefits of Nigeria’s national planning multiplies.
“Integrating climate change into planning and decision-making processes is a crucial tool to ensure climate change adaptation and poverty reduction,” said Bala Bappa, the CCAC’s National Planning coordinator in Nigeria. “Mainstreaming climate change into national policies, plans, and development projects contributes to reducing vulnerability to climate impacts and variability, increasing the adaptive capacity of communities facing climate impacts and ensuring sustainable development.”
Colombia: Maximizing local impact
The CCAC’s national planning process helps countries prioritise climate and clean air actions, so that each country can focus on the most cost-effective and impactful steps for their national context. With the support of the CCAC, Colombia increased its 2030 climate change ambitions and integrated new targets to simultaneously improve air quality and health. This included a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 51 per cent and black carbon by 40 per cent — an uncommon target in NDCs that Colombia identified after CCAC-supported research on Colombia’s emissions profile.
“The 40 per cent target to reduce black carbon is based on a robust assessment of existing laws, policies, and plans across all major source sectors,” said Francisco Charry, Director of Climate Change and Risk Management of the Ministry of Environment of Colombia. “Half this target will be achieved through black carbon emission reductions from our greenhouse gas mitigation actions, and half through an additional set of actions that specifically target major black carbon source sectors.”
As part of the CCAC’s national planning work, Colombia estimated the economic, environmental, and social benefits of reducing black carbon and particulate matter emissions using different mitigation scenarios. This was made possible by the Coalition’s Long-range Energy Alternative Planning (LEAP) – Integrated Benefits Calculator (IBC), a suite of tools developed to help countries assess and prioritise policy options and measures, including how to develop a national SLCP planning process.
The next step was more precise measurement and analysis of the sector’s emissions. Colombia was one of the first Latin American countries to deploy black carbon measurements in the brick sector using a CCAC-supported measurement protocol and a Ratnoze portable sampling system, which measures solid fuel combustion emissions.
“The CCAC support has been important, without its help we wouldn’t be talking about black carbon goals or other pollutant goals,” said John Henry Melo Pineda, the Coordinator of the NDC Update Process at Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, adding that the CCAC has helped make short-lived climate pollutants a priority. “I think the CCAC has been essential in this country to setting black carbon mitigation goals.”
“The CCAC has been essential to letting high-level decision-makers know about this issue, which was unknown just a little while ago. Now, at the highest levels, they know what black carbon is, why it's important, and why it is necessary to link air pollution and climate change,” said Pineda.
Mongolia: Highlighting air quality benefits
Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar, where almost half of the country’s population lives, has some of the worst air pollution in the world, with concentrations almost six times higher than the World Health Organisation recommends. This is partially because the city is so reliant upon coal, using it not only for power stations but also for heating homes over the extremely cold winters.
With the support of the CCAC, Mongolia developed an integrated assessment of the air pollution benefits Mongolia could achieve through its revised NDC process. The report titled "Opportunities from taking integrated actions on air pollution and climate change in Mongolia" identified major sources of SLCP emissions, such as agriculture, transport, and coal consumption for household heating and cooking, and for electricity and heat generation.
This assessment then outlined eight mitigation measures which serve as the basis for the country’s revised NDC, which included acting on heat generation, industry and buildings, and reducing the number of livestock in agriculture. If fully implemented, these actions could reduce black carbon by 12 per cent and particulate matter by 9 per cent, numbers that could increase to a 26 per cent reduction in black carbon and a 17 per cent reduction in particulate matter if both the climate change commitments and the air pollution actions are achieved.
“It really highlighted that there was a local benefit that was comparable to the reductions in greenhouse gases that could be achieved from implementing this updated NDC. The increase in ambition also increased the ambition in terms of improving air quality,” said Malley. “This is significant because in Mongolia’s voluntary national review of their achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals the prime minister specifically identified air pollution as being the key development issue that they want to try and achieve. And the results of the initial SNAP work in Mongolia was that climate change mitigation was a route to achieving that.”
“The air pollution benefits that can be achieved by implementing Mongolia’s revised NDC are on top of the existing actions being taken or planned that specifically tackle air quality in Ulaanbaatar,” said Dr, Damdin Davgadorj, assessment lead author. “When we evaluated the implementation of Mongolia’s NDC and planned air quality actions, the expected benefits were even greater.”
In 2020 and 2021, the CCAC built on that work and started looking into the by developing long term low emissions development scenarios for Mongolia, creating the first long term projections of emissions for Mongolia to 2050 based on the country’s 2050 vision. Without action, these emissions will be substantial, but using the CCAC’s national planning support they found that by transitioning away from coal, reducing methane emissions in livestock, improving waste management, making transport cleaner and more efficient Mongolia could cut its SLCP emissions in half.
The ongoing national planning process has helped countries build capacity, measure the benefits of short-lived climate pollutant action, coordinate action between ministries, and recognize the multiple benefits that can be achieved by acting on climate change and air pollution in tandem. This helped create national momentum and buy-in that contributed towards a wave of inclusion of short-lived climate pollutants into countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), enhancing their ambition to mitigate climate change and air pollution.
“CCAC has developed the processes and models needed to enable governments to quantify with reasonable precision the potential effectiveness of different emission reduction policies in terms of their impact on warming, air pollution, and crop damage,” said Richard Mills. “This has changed the game fundamentally. Governments are no longer left shooting in the dark. They can target their SLCP mitigation programmes on the most effective measures, optimising their contribution to international SLCP mitigation while at the same time contributing to their national social and economic priorities.”
Map: 70 CCAC partners cover SLCPs in the latest version of their NDCs (as of March 2022)
Over the past year, 60 CCAC partners have submitted new or updated NDCs. All 60 have included action on methane, covering almost 40 per cent of global methane emissions from oil and gas, 25 per cent from livestock, 25 per cent from rice, and 37 per cent from solid waste. Twelve included black carbon and 44 included HFCs. Through funded projects, the CCAC has supported 17 countries to incorporate actionable SLCP solutions into their NDCs. In many countries, the health threats posed by air pollution is of greatest concern to their citizens, with climate change being a less pressing problem in the day-to-day lives of many people — particularly in countries with marginal contributions to global emissions. By approaching both issues in an integrated manner, however, governments can show a broad range of benefits to get public buy-in.
“Through this collaboration, Zimbabwe gained a better understanding of the benefits of reducing short-lived climate pollutants not only for addressing near-term global warming, but also to improve air quality, which has direct health benefits on the population. The premature deaths we can avoid are really critical,” said Ndidzano. “Short-lived climate pollutants affect crop production and because Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy, the tons of avoided crop losses from their reduction is very significant.”
Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Liberia, Togo and Mali all considered SLCPs and air pollutants in their greenhouse gas mitigation assessments, quantifying air pollutant and SLCP emission reductions.
“That made it simpler for the stakeholders to include short-lived climate pollutants, they pretty easily agreed to it after hearing all of these benefits,” said Ndidzano. “To increase ambition, it’s important to include measures that have widespread benefits because, as you make bigger commitments, you want to make sure you’re bringing in things that directly benefit people.”
Colombia’s NDC included a black carbon emissions reduction target of 40 per cent compared to 2014 levels by 2030, and committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent in 2030 compared to a baseline scenario. Chile made a 25 per cent reduction target for black carbon emissions compared to 2016 levels by 2030, and committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mongolia quantified the air quality benefits from their enhanced NDC, showing the substantial simultaneous reductions in air pollutant emissions, particularly in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, to reduce greenhouse gases by 22.7 per cent in 2030. In Bangladesh, the 2018 National Action Plan to Reduce short-lived climate pollutants, was a key policy document for achieving their NDC.
“We are already observing and feeling the impacts of climate change. It’s happening in the form of severe cyclones, floods, droughts, and fires that will only become more extreme. Reducing the short-lived climate pollutants with significant global warming reduction potential is crucial to slow down the climate crisis. The CCAC has solutions that countries can implement today and NDC targets to achieve our desired climate goals,” said Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The CCAC has major successes to build off and has established the kind of momentum required to propel the scale of action needed over the next ten years — a crucial decade to successfully respond to the climate crisis.
“We are in a climate emergency but still we are not acting like it. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that when there is an emergency, leaders can deploy the necessary measures at scale but they are not yet doing that with climate. The pandemic also taught us that you cannot save yourself without collaborating with others. We are all in this climate emergency together and we must collaborate on this race to save everything,” said Romina Picolotti, the president of CEDHA and a climate change senior advisor at IGSD. “While we are deploying the emergency measures, we need to also set up a governance structure that will allow us to move fast and efficiently. The CCAC can help with the building blocks of this governance structure which is essential if we’re going to win this 10 year sprint.”
“The CCAC’s partner countries now have the tools and the knowledge to address short-lived climate pollutants strategically and effectively by integrating action on the climate crisis that risks the planet’s long term habitability, while also addressing the air pollution crisis already threatening the lives of millions around the world,” said Haeussling of the CCAC. “The next decade will be about making sure countries have the resources and support to turn their plans into action.”
In addition to supporting countries in their drive to implement national planning processes, the CCAC will also be focusing on expanding national planning to all countries. Given the past decades’ focus on developing countries, the CCAC will be calling for developed countries to advance their assessments and mitigation strategies and implement the priority mitigation measures they’ve identified.
“In the countries where the CCAC has focused its national planning support, there is a deep and robust knowledge of what the major emitting source sectors are and what the solutions are to reduce those emissions,” said Malley. “This large number of champion nations are now primed and ready to move to implementation, so I think that over the next 10 years that has to be a real focus of what the CCAC does: making sure that the plans, the policies, and the increase in institutional capacity to deal with SLCP issues is not for nothing.”
There are already good signs that this is the case as some countries have already moved forward into this implementation stage. It will be critical to mobilise national and international resources to help these countries implement these mitigation plans. The sectoral hubs will be supporting with implementation of the priority mitigation measures identified through the planning process.
Countries will need access to financing to be able to act on their ambitions and the CCAC will be focused on connecting partner countries to funding opportunities and building their capacity to successfully apply for and utilise climate financing. Picolotti adds that the Coalition is well positioned to do this, given that so many international financial institutions are partners. She further says that the CCAC can build off of the success of innovative finance mechanisms such as the Pilot Auction Facility, a pay per performance mechanism to finance methane reductions projects.
“Thanks to the national planning process, countries know exactly what they need to do over the next decade. The twin challenges they will face in meeting their ambitions for short-lived climate pollutant mitigation will be accessing finance to fund this work and developing capacity to monitor and evaluate how successful they are in achieving their goals,” said Haeussling. “The CCAC will be laser focused on supporting countries on both of these goals.
Mills adds that the CCAC’s priorities must be effective implementation and monitoring of the policies and plans that have been developed, as well as embedding SLCP mitigation into the systems and cultures of governments so that this work is self-sustaining.
CCAC should miss no opportunity to highlight its key messages: that the reduction of SLCP emissions is central to economic development, and that many SLCP mitigation policies can be delivered at little or no cost, or indeed will generate income,” said Mills. “It should encourage governments to focus on identifying and anticipating the different types of barriers likely to be encountered in implementing SLCP measures in different sectors of the economy and what they imply for the comparative timescale, cost and overall feasibility of delivering the different measures.”
Ensuring that countries are able to properly carry out monitoring and evaluation so they know whether they’re achieving the plans they’ve set out will be crucial. In 2022, the CCAC, SEI and the Initiative on Climate Action Transparency collaborated to develop guidelines on how SLCP emissions can be integrated into climate change MRV frameworks, which will be one tool to help countries do this.
“We are in a climate emergency that poses an existential threat to humankind and the CCAC is the only institution that focuses on the set of actions that can radically slow global warming in the next decade,” said Picolotti. “The CCAC is uniquely positioned to help states to put together their emergency plans which consist of substantially scaling up mitigation of methane, black carbon, and accelerating the mandatory phase down of HFCs.”
It’s a daunting task but the CCAC is well-equipped to lead the way.
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