Colombia Sets Example for SLCP-NDC Integration

by CCAC Secretariat - 2 May, 2024
Colombia has been a CCAC partner since 2012 and has undertaken some of the most consistent and ambitious short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) mitigation planning and commitments across several phases of development. Methane and HFC mitigation contribute approximately 9% of Colombia's GHG reduction commitment, and the country has set a separate of reducing black carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2014 levels.

Colombia’s experience in developing ambitious and realistic targets to reduce SLCP emissions in its nationally determined contributions has been recognised as a leading example for other nations as they undertake the process of updating their Nationally Determined Contributions as part of their obligations under the Paris Agreement. Including targeted SLCP mitigation measures alongside action on carbon dioxide (CO2) mitigation is now recognised as essential slow the pace of warming and meet Paris Agreement targets of limiting warming to 1.5°C. 

To understand the process of integrating SLCP planning within NDCs and how it differs from carbon dioxide, the CCAC spoke with Chris Malley, an expert in air pollution and climate change mitigation planning, and co-author of an academic article documenting Colombia’s process of integrating SLCP action into its NDC.  

Chris, can you start with helping us understand how and why planning to mitigate SLCPs through a country’s NDC differs from action on carbon dioxide? 

The first thing to understand is that SLCP mitigation is not mandated by any international treaty. This means that SLCP plans are not created to meet an obligation per-se, and often reflects a country’s recognition that there are many co-benefits to be gained from mitigating SLCPs.  

Because some SLCP actions overlap with CO2 mitigation actions, real SLCP mitigation planning must clearly identify that the actions are additional to carbon dioxide mitigation. For example, there are some actions which reduce SLCPs but not greenhouse gases, such as vehicle emissions standards and efficient brick production target black carbon emissions specifically, and are less relevant for CO2. 

The actual process of assessing and planning for SLCP mitigation however can be very similar to CO2, and uses complex analytical tools and diverse stakeholder engagement across government institutions and the private sector to gather and assess the required data. We learnt from Colombia – which did its CO2 and SCLP analyses separately – that countries gain a lot of efficiencies by combining the two. International assessments have identified clear sets of mitigation measures that are effective at reducing SLCPs, but it is highly context dependant which of these represent the low hanging fruit in particular countries.  

The lack of mandate for mitigating SLCPs does however mean that countries use different methodologies to measure their ambitions and actions, with varying results. This has meant that it can be hard to understand which countries have real ambition in their targets and which countries don’t.  


Your paper used three variables – the extent of the ambition, how realistic targets were, and whether they were really additional – to assess the success and viability of SLCP mitigation measures included in Colombia’s NDCs. Can you explain these variables to us in more detail? 

Ambition is really a technical term which relates to the way SLCP targets are set against a baseline. This can be problematic as emissions have grown over time, so where the baseline is set affects the reality of what a 40% reduction would look like for example. So, there are multiple ways you can look at what ambition actually means. 

Ambition can also be measured differently across different types of pollutants given their respective co-benefits. For example, when calculating the ambition of a Black Carbon target, we must take into account the health impacts. Quantifying the health benefits of SLCPs mitigation within an NDC gives a more nuanced picture of calculating ambition, which can now include the magnitude of the target, the premature deaths avoided, or the rate of reduction being looked at.  

This broader rationale for reducing SLCPs due to their co-benefits is becoming more widely recognised in countries NDCs, where factors beyond simple CO2 equivalents are helping governments justify mitigation actions on broader public benefit grounds.  

Talking about how realistic an SLCP target is means measuring the stated overall targets for SLCP reductions against of the measures listed to achieve those targets. This not only means checking if adequate measures are detailed in the NDC, but also whether those measures have been adequately budgeted for. Many countries don’t include specific details on what they will do to achieve their targets. Colombia so far has been one of the few countries to submit highly detailed annexes covering all their stated targets. While our study didn’t look at other aspects of feasibility it is also important for countries to consider political and technical feasibility in setting their targets.

In terms of additionality, we have seen that some countries use SLCP action to replace lack of ambition on CO2 in their NDCs. This doesn’t adequately reflect the importance of mitigating both types of emissions. SLCPs are becoming extra important exactly because of a delay in adequate CO2 emissions reductions, so the two must be done simultaneously and SLCP reductions shouldn’t only be coming because of overlaps in CO2 emitting sectors. This is particularly the case in the fossil fuels sector, where focusing on eliminating fugitive emissions should not obscure the need to phase out fossil fuels completely.  

What elements of Colombia’s planning process provide lessons for the development of SLCP targets in other NDCs?   

Firstly, Colombia has been working on assessing and mitigating SLCPs for a long time and with a long-term approach. They began in 2015 with an SLCP strategy and black carbon emission inventory even before the NDC system was finalised in Paris.  

They also have made the inclusion of SLCPs a trusted and transparent processes within government and with the public, including with public consultations for feedback on the NDC. For example, this transparency made the basis for setting such a high target in black carbon understandable to all stakeholders. We also saw ministerial commitment to setting ambitious targets throughout different political cycles, which really helped maintain momentum in the planning process.  

Colombia has also followed up its assessment and target setting processes with robust regulations to ensure its national mitigation commitments are reinforced by law. Beyond that it has also identified capacity building measures which will help both government institutions and private sector stakeholders achieve the targets.  

We also saw that including the co-benefits of SLCP action in justifying mitigation opened up more possibilities for development funding for SLCP mitigation which would not traditionally be directly related to climate change.  

Does Colombia’s progress on SLCPs in its NDC represent a broader trend in NDC updates? 

Yes if we analyse the development of NDCs overall since 2015 we see a huge change in how SLCPs are reflected. There has been more than a doubling in the inclusion of SLCPs, though with variability in the ambition and realism of targets. Countries are taking different approaches also, with some setting separate targets for each pollutant. Since the last NDC update the CCAC has been working with many countries to include SCLPs in their next update, so we are likely to see another growth in the coming years.  

One important feature of Colombia’s NDC update which all nations should pay attention to is addressing the imbalance between action on methane and other key SLCPs such as black carbon. Due to its high GWP and international focus, methane gets a lot of attention, but there are large, localised benefits to be gained from including ambitious targets for black carbon in an NDC. Methane is global, but black carbon is locally relevant, particularly for public health.  

To read the full study on Colombia’s NDC development click here.  

Pollutants (SLCPs)