First assessment of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant emissions and mitigation opportunities in Dominican Republic published

Dominican Republic’s updated climate change commitment acknowledges the importance of actions on SLCPs and local air pollution and health benefits from climate change action.

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Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by Jose Juan C.

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).

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Contribution of different sources to emissions of SLCPs, air pollutants and GHGs in the Dominican Republic in 2018
Contribution of different sources to emissions of SLCPs, air pollutants and GHGs in the Dominican Republic in 2018

“The large overlap in the major sources of SLCPs, air pollutants and greenhouse gases provides a big opportunity for the development of strategies which achieve our international climate change commitments, while at the same time achieving local benefits for our citizens through reduced air pollution exposure, and improved public health,” said Silmer Gonzalez, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

The assessment evaluated six actions for their potential to reduce greenhouse gases, such as increased renewable electricity generation, and renewing the vehicle fleet with less polluting vehicles. In addition to their reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, these measures were estimated to also reduce black carbon, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides, leading to local air pollution benefits.

“As a result of this study, and the importance of SLCPs for climate change and air quality, the Dominican Republic highlighted in its 2021 NDC update that SLCPs will be reflected in its 2025 update,” said Alan Ramirez, NCCCCDM. “We look forward to continuing to work with the CCAC to continue to assess SLCP sources, mitigation options, and implementation pathways to maximise local health benefits from Dominican Republic’s climate actions.”

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