Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

World Environment Minsters Pursue ‘Pollution Free Planet’, Tackle Super Climate Pollutants

Nairobi, Kenya, 6 December 2017 — Environment ministers at the United Nations Environment Assembly agreed today to a resolution to reduce all forms of air pollution to improve health, climate, and agricultural co-benefits, and to reduce 6.5 million deaths air pollution now causes every year, an estimated expected to increase by more than 50% by 2050.

The resolution notes the importance of black carbon, methane, and ground-level ozone air pollution—the short-lived climate pollutants—for climate change mitigation. In addition, the ministers at UNEA recognized the leading role of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in the battle to reduce air pollution and slow climate change and made a recommendation to all countries to consider joining or cooperating with the Coalition.

The UNEA resolution, Preventing and Reducing Air Pollution to Improve Air Quality Globally, states:

The United Nations Environment Assembly

Recognizing that some air pollutants, such as black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone, are also short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and are responsible for a significant portion of air pollution-related deaths, as well as impacts on crops and hence food security, and their reduction has co-benefits for the climate. ***

1) Reaffirms the call in United Nations Environment Assembly resolution 1/7 for Member States to take action across sectors to reduce all forms of air pollution and urges member states to:

c. Include, as appropriate, air pollutants that are also short-lived climate pollutants in national action programmes to prevent and reduce air pollution ***

2) Encourages Member States when undertaking activities in paragraph 1 above to:

b. Consider joining or cooperating with, as appropriate, relevant global initiatives such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Global Methane Initiative;

The resolution was adopted by the environment ministers at the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly, which convened at United Nations Environment headquarters in Nairobi 4-6 December.

The other short-lived climate pollutant, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were also mentioned in the final outcome document, The Ministerial Declaration of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, where ministers recognized the Kigali Amendment to phasedown HFCs. Last month the Kigali Amendment crossed the ratification threshold in the run up to the 30th Anniversary celebratory meeting of the parties of the Montreal Protocol and will now enter into force 1 January 2019. The UNEA Ministerial Declaration states:

3. We also believe that the knowledge and technological solutions to reduce pollution already exist, though many stakeholders have yet to explore and implement the many opportunities available. We are encouraged by the numerous success stories of countries, cities and businesses addressing air, soil, freshwater and marine pollution issues. Recent examples include the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The CCAC hosted a high level panel discussion at UNEA on “Fast action on air pollution provides quick results and multiple benefits, focusing on the latest science behind air pollution and the opportunities and benefits that fast action on reducing short-lived climate pollutants has for health, the climate, development, and economic growth.

The CCAC event included new research by several members of its Science Advisory Panel published last month in Nature Climate Change, highlighting how measures to reduce these dangerous air pollutants and short-lived climate pollutants could help meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the ambitious goal of slowing warming by 0.5°C over the next quarter of a century.

“To capitalize on the inherent synergies and co-benefits between air pollution reduction, climate change mitigation, the Paris Agreement goals, and the SDGs, it is important to quantify the multiple benefits of air pollutant mitigation policies, while addressing potential trade-offs”, said Romina Picolotti, IGSD Senior Counsel. “The decision taken today by ministers at UNEA have set us on a path to reduce air pollution and much more. The CCAC, through its seven sectoral and four cross-cutting initiatives, is working to provide guidance and institutional support to develop and implement strategies to quickly reduce black carbon, methane and HFC emissions”, she added.


For further information, see the Well Under 2°C report and accompanying paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here.