Bangladesh, in South Asia has a population of 164 million people, all of whom are exposed to levels of air pollution that far exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. The health consequences of breathing this toxic air are estimated to be 83,000 premature deaths in 2016, including 6,000 infant deaths, according to WHO.
At the same time, Bangladesh is already experiencing the effects of climate change through, for example, flooding, drought and agricultural productivity. Despite making a small contribution to overall global greenhouse gas emissions, Bangladesh has also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in 2030 compared to a business as usual scenario.
The Bangladesh Department of Environment (DoE), under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has developed an ambitious plan to simultaneously deal with the issues of air pollution and climate change. In February 2019, the Md. Shahab Uddin, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change formally endorsed Bangladesh’s National Action Plan for Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants on behalf of the government.
Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) are a group of pollutants, including black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and HFCs, that have direct effects on air pollution and human health, but also warm the atmosphere. The major sources of SLCPs in Bangladesh include, cooking using biomass, agriculture, waste, brick kiln, transportation and rice parboiling. These sectors are also large contributors to emissions of other air pollutants and carbon dioxide.
Different stakeholders from across government, academia, private sector and civil society were engaged in the development of the National SLCP Plan in Bangladesh. Key mitigation actions in each of the major source sectors were evaluated in terms of how much they reduce SLCP, and other pollutant emissions, as well as how they could be implemented in Bangladesh.
In total, 11 priority mitigation measures were included in Bangladesh’s National SLCP Plan, 6 of which target major black carbon sources, and 5 of which target major methane sources. The full implementation of the National SLCP Plan would reduce black carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 compared to a business as usual scenario, and reduce methane emissions by 17%. These actions would also simultaneously reduce emissions of other pollutants, resulting in an estimated avoided 9000 premature deaths in 2030 from reduced air pollution exposure.
“Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) have adverse effects on human health, crop production and climate change,” said the Honorable Mr Anisul Islam Mahmud MP, Former Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. “Therefore, it is high time we took appropriate initiatives regarding SLCP mitigation options in the greater interest of our people.”
The priority mitigation measures included in the plan include eliminating high-emitting vehicles, replacing traditional cookstoves with more efficient biomass stoves, eliminating open burning of waste and crop residues, and intermittent aeration of rice paddy fields.
“These measures were selected not only because they are effective at reducing SLCP, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Prof. Tanvir Ahmed, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the technical lead in the development of Bangladesh’s National SLCP Plan. “They were also selected because they have been effectively implemented in many other countries, and are also in many cases cost effective.”
“The endorsement of this National Action Plan, and the 11 mitigation actions is an important step forward in improving air quality and the health of Bangladeshis,” said Dr Masud Iqbal Md Shameem, Director, Department of Environment. “However, for the air quality, health and development benefits outlined in this plan to be realised, all relevant stakeholders must now come together and take meaningful actions to increase implementation of the plan’s priority mitigation measures.”
“As a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Bangladesh has been a leader in taking action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants,” said Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat. “The political endorsement of this National SLCP Plan is a further example of this leadership, and we look forward to following its implementation and the air pollution, health and climate change benefits that will result from this.”
Bangladesh is one of 12 countries that is developing a National SLCP Action Plan as part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Strengthening National Action & Planning (SNAP) Initiative. The planning process in each country identifies the most effective actions that can be taken to simultaneously reduce air pollution and mitigation climate change.