Cleaner Bricks Production Gets a Boost in Latin America

by Kristine Smukste - 5 November, 2014
New public policy tools are being developed for public officials in Latin America

New public policy tools are being developed for public officials in Latin American to address the challenge of air pollution from brick production.

From October 27-30, 2014 the non-profit organization Swisscontact brought together over 150 brick kiln operators, academic and industry specialists, and public officials for a workshop in Cuzco, Peru addressing new technologies to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, mainly black carbon, from brick production. On day four of the workshop, the audience turned to public policy, with the Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA) hosting the inaugural meeting of the Latin American Brick Kilns Policy Advocacy Network (PAN LAC), an initiative bringing together states, multilateral agencies, civil society organizations and business under the auspices of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.

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Acambaro, León, Mexico. Artisanal brick kiln in operation. Photo courtesy of EELA, 2014.

The workshop included a site visit to the heart of Cuzco’s brick kiln industrial area to see first-hand some of the innovative processes at work in Peru to lower emissions and increase economic profit, and closed on the last day with more than 50 government officials from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, focusing attention on public policy tools and programs to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. These so-called SLCPs, including black carbon, methane and other pollutants, not only contribute to climate change but are also harmful to human health, in this case to workers, children and families living near brick kilns. The PAN LAC network, which held its’ first session in Cuzco, aims to provide public officials with policy solutions, expert advisors, documentation, best practices, guidelines, and capacity training to improve brick kiln policy on an economic, technological, environmental and social level.

Brick production is still an ancient practice in many countries, where bricks are produced in kilns fueled by coal, wood, dung and other biomass materials. Latin America has a large number of brick production facilities, from an estimated 300 in Chile, to between 8 and 10 thousand in Peru and approximately 17,000 in Mexico. Recent studies show that implementing more efficient technologies, mainly during the firing of bricks, can result in reductions of pollutant emissions from 10 to 50%, depending on the process, scale and fuel used.

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Brick kiln in Mexico. Photo courtesy of EELA, 2014

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition addresses brick production issues through its Brick Production Initiative, which has implemented a range of awareness-raising and capacity-building activities. Besides conducting workshops, the initiative has prepared an awareness raising toolkit to identify the impact of black carbon and other pollutants from inefficient brick kilns. It has also created a web-based knowledge platform to facilitate knowledge sharing among experts and stakeholders.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary global partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, the environmental community, and other members of civil society. It brings together a wide range of stakeholders to take concrete and substantial action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants collectively and individually.  Leadership and implementation within the CCAC is collaborative, and decisions are made by consensus. The emphasis is on voluntary commitments and on action.

For more information on the PAN LAC or to become a member, contact Jorge Daniel Taillant (jdtaillant [at]