20 April 2018: UN Environment (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) released a report titled, ‘Integrated Assessment of Short-lived Climate Pollutants for Latin America and the Caribbean.’ The first-ever integrated assessment concludes that reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can result in immediate and long-term health, food security and climate benefits for the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region.

The report recommends measures to reduce SLCPs that, if implemented, will contribute to keeping the global average temperature rise to below 2˚C, and describes where countries can and should be more ambitious in addressing climate change and improving air quality in the near-term. It notes that initiatives to reduce SLCP emissions could directly and indirectly support implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and many of the SDGs, and that recognition of their potential contribution could help mobilize resources and increase policy traction.

SLCP emission reduction measures contribute to SDG 13 (climate action) by reducing near-term global warming.

According to the report, policies and measures to reduce SLCP emissions can indirectly contribute to SDG 1 (no poverty) by increasing crop yields and reducing the economic effects of ill-health due to air pollution. Improvements in air quality directly contribute to SDG 2 (zero hunger) by improving ecosystem health and agricultural yields, and to SDGs 3 (good health and well-being) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities) by reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution and helping ensure healthy lives for people. Reducing near-term global warming directly contributes to SDG 13 (climate action), but also supports SDGs 1 and 11 by helping reduce the exposure of vulnerable populations to climate change-related extreme events. Measures to address SLCPs also promote low- or no-emission alternatives across a wide range of sectors, supporting SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 12 (responsible consumption and production).

SLCPs include black carbon (or soot), methane, ground level (tropospheric) ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), all of which have a global warming potential (GWP) hundreds to thousands times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Black carbon and ozone also have significant impacts on human and plant health. The report notes that poor air quality and climate change are already affecting the region’s vulnerable populations and the environment, leading to premature deaths, crop yield losses and ecosystem damage.

According to the assessment, agriculture, transport, and domestic and commercial refrigeration produce the largest emissions of methane, black carbon, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and HFCs. For example, in 2010, approximately 64,000 people died prematurely from exposure to PM2.5 and tropospheric ozone, and ozone caused around 7.4 million tonnes in yield losses of soybean, maize, wheat and rice. The report warns that, by 2050, annual premature mortality from PM2.5 and ozone exposure could double, and annual crop losses could reach 9 million tonnes, absent any action to improve air quality.

The report finds that implementing SLCP emission reduction measures could reduce warming in the region by up to 0.9°C by 2050, reduce premature mortality from PM2.5 by at least 26% annually, and avoid the loss of 3-4 million tonnes of soybeans, maize, wheat and rice per year. It further concludes that use of cleaner fuels and more efficient transport systems in LAC cities will lead to increased accessibility to jobs and less exposure to pollutants while commuting.

The assessment recommends specific measures to help reduce over 45% of methane emissions by 2050, including: recovering and using vented gas in oil and gas production; separating and treating biodegradable municipal solid waste; and recovering biogas from livestock manure using anaerobic digestion. Black carbon emissions could be reduced by over 80% by 2050 through: modernizing cooking and heating stoves; improving diesel vehicle standards to Euro VI equivalent; using diesel particulate filters on vehicles; eliminating high-emitting vehicles; and enforcing bans on open field agricultural burning. Using climate-friendly alternatives in refrigeration and cooling could almost completely eliminate HFCs, while also improving appliance energy efficiency.

Commenting on the report, Leo Heileman, UN Environment Director for LAC, said that LAC countries are working together to scale up efforts on mitigation and adaptation plans, which support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs by reducing vulnerability, and driving economic growth and innovation in clean energy and energy efficiency. Head of CCAC Secretariat Helena Molin Valdés said stronger public policies and pollution control can increase economic incentives and maximize benefits for climate action, health, agriculture and sustainable development.

A companion technical report titled, ‘Progress and Opportunities for Reducing SLCPs across Latin America and the Caribbean,’ provides examples of initiatives and measures that have successfully reduced SLCP emissions in LAC, covering such sectors as transport, coal mining, oil and gas production, municipal solid waste and wastewater treatment, livestock rearing and open burning, residential heating and cooking, and small industrial sources. [Integrated Assessment of SLCPs in LAC] [Integrated Assessment Landing Page] [Progress and Opportunities for Reducing SLCPs across Latin America and the Caribbean] [Technical Report Landing Page] [UN Environment Press Release] [CCAC News Story]