ClimPol: “Climate Change and Air Pollution - Research Needs and Pathways to Policy Implementation”

Overview

Although not always perceived as such, air pollution and climate change are highly connected issues. Both air quality and climate change are also crucial global environmental challenges that threaten a successful transformation to a sustainable future. As recognized in the scientific literature, air quality and climate change are linked, not only to each other, but also to development and wider sustainability challenges. Air pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHGs) are often co-emitted by the same sources. Furthermore, a changing climate has implications for air quality, and air pollutants play a role in climate change. In short, clean air is a resource, just like clean water, and actions that influence emissions link us all to a global community that live in one atmosphere.

In 2014 estimates from the World Health Organization attributed 2.6 million premature deaths a year to outdoor air pollution. Furthermore, over 98% of the urban population in Europe is exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed the guidelines set by the WHO for the protection of human health. In addition, the role of air pollutants in climate change (these species are often also referred to as short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs)) has gained public and political attention since the inauguration in 2012 of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) aimed at reducing the SLCPs, among other initiatives. The reduction of warming SLCPs, such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane, have various simultaneous and immediate benefits at local scales for public health, ecosystem protection, food security as well as climate change mitigation. But inter-linkages can be complex and some air pollutants exert a cooling effect on climate, such as sulfate aerosols. In addition to benefits there can also be trade-offs. One example is domestic wood burning, often promoted as CO2 neutral or ‘green’ energy source because of its CO2 savings relative to fossil fuels, it unfortunately can also lead to increased emissions of particulate matter, including black carbon, a climate forcer and an air pollutant associated with adverse health effects.

In order to capitalize on the benefits while avoiding trade-offs and additional financial burden owing to counter measures of an uncoordinated strategy, a greater awareness and recognition of these linkages and better coordination of climate change and air pollution mitigation strategies is needed in decision-making. Furthermore, to facilitate a societal transformation to a sustainable future, awareness and action are required not only in science or policy, but down to the level of every individual. Against this background, ClimPol focuses on the scientific foundation and pathways to policy implementation for better coordination between the two arenas at several levels, and engaging and communicating with the public. To put this into practice, the project follows a transdisciplinary approach at the science-policy-society interface, enabling dialogues among policymakers, the public, and the scientific community, and fostering public awareness.

ClimPol is currently active in three main areas:

  • Supporting coordinated, scientifically informed, policy development in Germany and the EU
  • Scientific research, including collaboration with the international scientific community
  • Fostering awareness through communication and public engagement

 

 

For more specific examples of how this translates into practice, please view our current and past projects under ‘activities’.