Climate & Clean Air Conference 2023 : Youth Learnings & Reflections
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) hosted the Climate and Clean Air Conference 2023: Air Quality Action Week which brings together experts and government representatives and decision-makers, intergovernmental bodies, donors, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to identify new opportunities, develop capacities and facilitate cooperation and knowledge exchange to address air pollution and its adverse impacts on public health, development, environment, and climate.
Clarence Gio Almoite, Inperson
Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and air pollution are two interconnected environmental problems that have a major effect on both climate change and human health. Synergies between these variables can make both of their effects worse, resulting in a complicated web of problems that need to be solved.
When dangerous substances like particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ozone (O3) are present in the air, it is referred to as air pollution. These pollutants are mostly released by fossil fuel combustion, industrial activities, and vehicle emissions. On the other hand, SLCPs are a class of short-lived chemicals that include tropospheric ozone, methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). SLCPs are powerful climate change contributors while having a shorter atmospheric lifetime than other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).
There are numerous ways to see the connections between SLCPs and air pollution. First off, SLCPs and many air contaminants have similar emission sources. For instance, incomplete combustion processes, including the burning of biomass and fossil fuels, emit black carbon. As black carbon absorbs sunlight and heats the atmosphere, these emissions have a considerable warming effect in addition to contributing to air pollution. Thus, decreasing black carbon emissions can both improve air quality and slow down global warming. Complex feedback loops can result from interactions between SLCPs and the atmosphere that change the composition of the atmosphere. For instance, some air pollutants can promote the production of ground-level ozone, a strong greenhouse gas and a significant smog-causing factor. Ozone lowers air quality while simultaneously accelerating climate change. On the other hand, climate change can affect how air pollutants are formed and dispersed. For example, rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns can affect how air pollutants are distributed in the atmosphere.
Air quality improvement and climate change mitigation must be part of comprehensive initiatives to address the synergy between air pollution and SLCPs. Both air pollution and climate change can be lessened by implementing cleaner and more effective technologies, such as encouraging renewable energy sources and cutting emissions from the industrial and transportation sectors. Additionally, SLCPs like methane and black carbon can be decreased by switching to sustainable agriculture methods and lowering waste emissions.
Furthermore, effective solutions depend on global cooperation and established policy frameworks. By establishing emission reduction goals and encouraging international cooperation, initiatives like the Paris Agreement and the Global Methane Initiative seek to address both climate change and air pollution. Governments can achieve co-benefits in the form of improved air quality, decreased climate impact, and improved public health by coordinating efforts to address air pollution and SLCPs.
Significantly, we would like to thank CCAC through its secretariat, for defining meaningful youth engagement through the adoption of the Youth Engagement Strategy.
Grace Phatteeya Yongsanguanchai, Inperson
During the Climate and Clean Air Conference 2023, we had the opportunity to attend almost every session and took notes as an observer. The program begins with a high-level panel establishing the importance of tackling climate change, air pollution, and its linkages. They recognized past progress like the Kigali Amendment, Asia Clean Blue Skies Program, or the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM), as well as, demand for more ambitious plans and actions moving forward. They highlighted how climate change and air pollution is inextricably linked as air pollution cannot be tackled without climate change and vice versa. Thus, integrated solutions would save time, money, and lives.
With that covered, the rest of the sessions focuses more on specific topics categorized by region (Asia, Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean), CCAC Working Groups (waste, HDVE, fossil fuel, agricultural, cooling, and household energy sector), and others (eg. air quality legislation, hydrogen potential, science-policy dialogue).
In my humble opinion, most of the sessions are highly scientific and esoteric or can be understood only among those who’re already experienced in the field. For instance, a topic from a session on tropical science gives relevant information about the causes from and impacts of SLCPs on agriculture, but it goes beyond that by explaining each gasses’, such as O3, CH4, N2O, CO2, effect and origin through a detailed diagram and technical assessment measures. I must admit that it is challenging to digest all scientific information, yet it is said that much is already summarized by them as it consists of years of heavy research.
As a result, I got a glimpse in understanding an expert’s comment of how commitments to tackling SLCPs should be more diverted towards the science community instead of the public. Technological solutions and implementation in these fields require in-depth knowledge and expertise. However, I am still convinced that public awareness is necessary for mobilization as it leads to increased political attention, yet the message should remain simpler to be most effective.
Apart from being scientific, some presentations are focused on different countries, institutions, or international organizations or partnerships’ efforts like ICIMOD, CCAC, or the IEA. As a result, it is difficult for them to avoid mentioning information that may not be relevant to participants. Although regional dialogue is undeniably fruitful, it has its limitations as the lessons learned, plans, and goals differ from country to country due to differences in governance, geographical location, environmental conditions, and many other factors. This extraneous information also includes excessive information on successful projects or accomplishments that only covers the surface level, such as how much gas is reduced or the history of their work advancement.
Even though the topics are highly specific, it is our pleasure to see diverse stakeholders joining the event - government representatives and decision-makers, intergovernmental bodies, donors, civil society organizations, and others. Other features of the conference
I admire include a culture open to networking, CCAC giving space for participants to input recommendations for each working group, and experts’ initiative on a holistic economic assessment of SLCP mitigation.
Hasibul Hasan, Online
The conference aimed to address the urgent need for global action on climate change and air pollution, and online participants actively engaged in discussions, workshops, and knowledge-sharing sessions.
One of the key learning points from the conference was the recognition of the interconnection between climate change and air pollution. I have gained insights into the detrimental impacts of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone, on both climate and public health. I have also learned about effective strategies and technologies to mitigate SLCP emissions and improve air quality.
The online format of the conference enabled a diverse range of participants to engage, including scientists, policymakers, activists, and representatives from civil society and industry. This inclusivity fostered a rich exchange of ideas, experiences, and best practices. The use of virtual platforms for presentations and panel discussions allowed for real-time interactions and Q&A sessions, enhancing participant engagement.
However, certain factors acted as barriers to effective online engagement. Technical issues, such as poor internet connectivity and audio/video disruptions, were occasionally encountered by some participants, hampering their ability to fully participate and contribute.
Riza Annisa Anggraeni, Inperson
Climate change shows some of the global negotiating and diplomatic efforts that humanity has taken to respond to the environmental emergency. I realized the problem in the current Earth (crisis) communication is the high intensity of climate change news, research, and discussion that has made us fail to understand the accurate, bigger picture of the Earth Crisis. So, the strategy it must to generalize the perspective first -“the importance of leveraging the knowledge and values”, and it will require unprecedented cooperation across all of society.
We need to change how we talk about climate policy.
I noticed the differences in the way scientist talk about climate and the way indigenous community talk about it which is the most marginalized populations that have downstream impacts on climate change. We should create a space when “climate change” discussion more accessible and make sure nobody’s getting left behind by contruct the communication process, so everybody able to understand.
When we talk about climate change, scientists present data, in a language that is difficult for civil society and young people who are at the forefront of climate crisis actions to understand. It should be noted that meaningful and impactful communication is not just choosing words and constructing sentences. There are several components and elements involved in a communication process, starting from the communicating party, the intended party, the ideas held, and the language used, to factors that have the potential to interfere with the process of conveying information. For this reason, it is important to look at communication holistically and consider broader aspects of the communication in the decision making process.