Dominican Republic, the second largest Caribbean country, has a population of almost 11 million people. It is highly vulnerable to climate change as the result of sea-level rise, increased intensity of tropical storms, and changes in precipitation patterns. Dominican Republic itself makes a relatively small contribution to global climate change, with annual greenhouse gas emissions totalling 35 million tonnes in 2015. Despite this, in its recently updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), Dominican Republic committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27% in 2030 compared with a baseline scenario, conditional on international support.
In major cities like the capital, Santo Domingo, citizens are exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. According to WHO, in 2016 there were almost 3,000 premature deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution exposure in the Dominican Republic.
The issues of air pollution and climate change are closely linked for two reasons. Firstly, there is a large overlap in the sources of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Secondly, a subset of pollutants, called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) including black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), have direct effects on air pollution and human health, and are many times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.
In July 2021, a new assessment of SLCPs and integrated climate change and air pollution mitigation was published by the Dominican Republic National Council on Climate Change, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Environment, and the Stockholm Environment, as part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition national planning project. The assessment quantifies, for the first time, the major sources of SLCPs and air pollutant emissions, alongside greenhouse gases, and provides an initial assessment of mitigation opportunities to achieve simultaneous climate and air quality benefits.
“This new assessment provides a reference point to understand the magnitude of SLCP and air pollutant emissions in Dominican Republic,” said Luz Alcantara of the National Council for Climate Change and the Clean Development Mechanism (NCCCCDM). “Now that we know the contribution of different emission sources of different pollutants, we can better target interventions to reduce them,” said Ruben Mesa, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
The assessment estimates that in 2018, Dominican Republic emitted 3.88 thousand tonnes of black carbon emissions. The largest contribution to these emissions came from the residential sector, including from cooking using wood and other solid fuels, from the open burning of waste, and from industry and transport. The residential sector is also a major source of other air pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOX), as well as greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).