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Accelerated reduction of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), and the associated multiple benefits for air quality, human wellbeing, food and livelihoods that come from such actions, are essential for raising ambition on climate change.
That was the consensus at a closed-door Ministerial roundtable discussion held in Accra, Ghana on 19th March 2019 at the start of the Africa Climate Week, where African ministers met for a special session on climate change.
The roundtable was co-hosted by Ghana’s Minister of Environment, the Hon. Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng and the Mayor of Accra, the Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Ministers and high-level representatives from Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, and Niger, United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Environment, the World Bank, Agence Francaise de Development, and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) attended the event.
Participants acknowledged the strong leadership of Ghana and the City of Accra on integrated action on climate and air pollution. Ghana is a founding partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the first country globally to include short-lived climate pollutants and other air pollutants in their fourth official National Greenhouse Gas Inventory submitted to the UNFCCC. Accra was the first African city to join the global BreatheLife campaign to raise awareness about the health and climate impacts from air pollution.
Minister Boateng welcomed the participants on behalf of the national government. Mayor Sowah said that there was need for improved local, national, regional and international cooperation and called on developed countries to continue to do their part to address the global climate and pollution challenge.
“Climate change is a global issue that knows no boundaries, and we all need to work together to collectively reduce emissions” Mr. Sowah said. “This global phenomenon needs local actions, but we must be coordinated to prevent unintended consequences. For example, as developed countries switch to electric vehicle fleets, they should not ship their old gasoline and diesel vehicles to Africa because increased pollution from Africa will have global impacts.”
Several participants noted that many African countries have established vehicle import restrictions to prevent dumping of older polluting vehicles from abroad.
“The model of a national minister and a mayor of a major city in the country co-hosting a meeting to tackle local pollution in the context of national development and climate action is an approach to be commended, and a model of governmental collaboration that it would be very useful to adopt in other countries,” stated Dan McDougall, Senior Fellow at the CCAC. “The fusion of national and local can be a powerful force for driving ambition and engaging citizens.”
The CCAC’s outgoing Kenyan Co-Chair, Alice Kaudia, said the CCAC was unique as the only global Coalition focused on the near-term impacts for climate and clean air. She thanked the Honorable Minister and the Honorable Mayor for co-hosting the Ministerial round table and said she anticipated Ghana’s continued support to develop and complete the Integrated Africa Regional Assessment on air pollution and climate which the Coalition launched on the margins of the Africa Climate Week.
The participants welcomed the news that the CCAC has launched an integrated air pollution and climate assessment in Africa and agreed to support the work.
Mayor Sowah said there was significant need for better data at the sub-national and city scale. “Most integrated air pollution and climate data is developed at a national scale, which is important to facilitate good national decision-making, but similar data is also needed to help cities take faster and more effective action,” he said.
Dr. Owne Laws Kaluwa, WHO’s Representative in Ghana called on all countries to prioritize issues of air pollution and climate by reducing short-lived climate pollutants, air pollution and CO2 emissions.
“All plans to minimize climate change need swift action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but internationally agreed climate targets will not be achievable without additional activities to reduce SLCPs,” Dr Kaluwa said. “By doing things like consciously investing in clean urban transit and sustainable pedestrian and bike networks that reduce traffic injury and support physical activity, we can reduce air pollution and the burden of disease and poverty in the region. We can save lives while helping slow the pace of near-term climate change.”
Dr Kaluwa said the CCAC and WHO’s Urban Health Initiative (UHI) will continue to explore innovative local initiatives to reduce emissions from diesel vehicles, household cooking and heating, and municipal waste management, among others, to improve the air quality in Accra and Ghana.
James Grabert, Director of Sustainable Development Mechanisms at the UNFCCC, said solutions to the climate and air pollution problem require a holistic systems approach like that embodied in the integrated climate and air pollution actions supported by the CCAC.
“An integrated approach can facilitate greater vertical cooperation and co-governance between city and national governments to simultaneously address local pollution and national climate emissions,” Mr. Grabert said.
Quite Djata, State Secretary for the Environment, Guinea Bissau, strongly articulated a common theme of the evening, the importance of south-south cooperation particularly among African countries. Ms. Djata said much of the expertise and experience needed to address major pollution issues already exists in Africa. Countries, like Ghana, with more experience in addressing transport emissions or the handling of municipal solid waste can share their good practices and help guide other countries in the region onto a similar path.
At the end of the discussion Guinea Bissau pledged to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
The Coalition and the WHO were praised for their efforts to bring short-lived climate pollutants to the climate action table, and the BreatheLife Campaign.
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