Short-lived Climate-forcing Pollutants: ClimPol

Air Pollution and Climate Change – Research Needs and Pathways to Policy Implementation


Copyright by iStock naphtalina
© iStock naphtalina

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 (sustainable) development. Air pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHGs) are often co-emitted by the same sources. Furthermore, a changing climate has implications for air quality, and many air pollutants play a role in climate change. In short, clean air is a resource, just like clean water, and local actions that influence emissions link us all to a global community that live in one atmosphere.

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 aimed at reducing the SLCPs. Especially 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 and climate change mitigation. But inter-linkages can be complex and some air pollutants exert a cooling effect on climate, such as sulfate aerosols. Hence, next to certain co-benefits there are also trade-offs. One example is domestic wood burning, often promoted as CO2neutral or ‘green’ energy source because of its CO2 savings relative to fossil fuels, it unfortunately also leads to increased emissions of particulate matter including black carbon, a significant climate forcer and an air pollutant associated with significant adverse health effects.

© iStock focusstock
© iStock focusstock

In order to capitalize on the potential co-benefits and avoid 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 at all political levels. Furthermore, to facilitate a societal transformation to a sustainable future, awareness and action are required not only in policy, but down to the level of every individual. Against this background, ClimPol focuses on finding pathways to policy implementation for better coordination between the two arenas at several levels, as well as on engaging and communicating with the public. To put this into practice, the project follows a transdisciplinary approach including the following key aspects:

  • Co-designing usable knowledge with all types of stakeholders
  • Mutual learning to shape salient research agendas and policy processes
  • Awareness raising and narratives to foster societal change.

Project leader: Erika von Schneidemesser erika.vonschneidemesser(at)