G20 countries are failing to integrate air pollution into their climate plans, according to a new study. The authors want this to be resolved at COP28.
When we think about the dangers of fossil fuels, we tend to imagine large-scale climate consequences, from wildfires to floods.
But there is of course a more insidious and direct way in which burning coal, oil and gas harms us: air pollution.
“Air pollution lies at the intersection of public health and climate change, but too many countries are still failing to reap the health benefits of clean air and climate action,” says Nina Renshaw, health officer at the Clean Air Fund.
“This means they don’t benefit from better air quality, which would significantly reduce the number of people suffering from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and asthma. »
All of these conditions are caused or aggravated by air pollutionShe adds.
To highlight this intersection, the Global Alliance for Climate and Health (GCHA) examined which countries include air quality in their national climate plans.
By examining the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of 170 countries – their national climate change mitigation plans – the study produced a revealing air quality dashboard.
Here are some of the key findings, including why low- and middle-income countries are doing better than some of the world’s largest economies.
Which countries are right about air pollution and climate?
Colombia and Mali top the GCHA Clean Air NDC ranking, with 12 points out of 15 possible.
ColombiaThe CDNs of France recognize the importance of protecting respiratory health through actions to promote air quality. The South American country also demonstrates common thinking by saying that policies to monitor air quality will come from the health sector.
It references multiple air pollutants, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, and sets a black carbon reduction target of 40 percent. Colombia identifies the sectors causing air pollution, namely agriculture, electricity generation, industry and transport, with particularly progressive projects in bike sharing.
Its NDCs also mention a price to reduce air and water pollution linked to pesticides. And it says improving air quality could prevent 2.4 million premature deaths by 2030.
As in other countries with high clean air scores, such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Pakistan and Togo, mortality from air pollution in Mali is more than 80 deaths per 100,000 residents. . According to the GCHA, this shows the need for increased funding to help these countries implement their air purification plans.
Albania and Moldova rank first in Europe in air quality
Most countries integrating air quality considerations into their climate plans are in the Global South, according to the GCHA. But two countries are leading the pack in Europe: Albania and Moldova.
Albania cites the impact of poor air quality on cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, particularly in Tirana and other cities.
Its NDCs reference the pillars of the EU Green Deal for the Western Balkans, which include climate action alongside tackling air pollution. While sectoral measures are also mentioned for agriculture and waste.
But other European countries, including the European Union – which submits its NDCs as a single bloc – are further down the rankings.
Although the EU includes several air pollutants in its commitments, it fails to make explicit the link between air pollution, health and climate action. For this reason, it falls behind the highest-rated G20 countries, such as Canada And China.
“The Clean Air NDC Scorecard confirms the human cost of delaying the inevitable phase-out of fossil fuels,” said Jess Beagley, policy manager at the GCHA.
“As major global polluters, it is crucial to G20 countries to integrate air quality considerations into their NDCs, but no G20 government gets half the score, indicating a lack of recognition of the links between climate and air quality , or an ambition to act.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are last in the ranking with one and zero points respectively.
Activists demand action for clean air at COP28
With 99% of the world’s population breathing air that exceeds WHO safety limits, it is clear that greater action on clean air is needed.
Activists see COP28 – which designates Health Day for the first time this year – as the ideal time to address this issue.
“Next December, the COP28 President has the opportunity to put air pollution firmly on the agenda and catalyze national commitments and international funding to improve air quality,” says Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Alliance for Climate and Health.
“COP28’s commitment to being the first ‘COP on health’ will prove to be an empty promise if the conference does not achieve substantial progress in the fight against air pollution, one of the most tangible questions at the intersection of climate and health.
Specifically, campaigners want air quality commitments to be integrated into key pillars of the negotiations – including the very first Global assessment and the final summit agreement.
“It is essential to completely stop the burning of fossil fuels to realize the enormous associated benefits of clean air,” adds Beagley.
She also emphasizes that speculative carbon capture technologies will not improve people’s health.
Air quality groups have written to COP28 President Dr Al Jaber asking him to focus on air pollution at the climate summit.