Climate co-benefits of air quality and clean energy policy in India

Chandra Venkataraman and Kushal Tibrewal from the Interdisciplinary Program in Climate Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India assessed climate co-benefits of air quality and clean energy policies, using multiple metrics (global warming and temperature change potentials) to inform national climate policy.

Sustainable development goals connect policies addressing air quality and energy efficiency with complementary benefits for climate mitigation. However, a typically fragmented approach across these domains hinders effectiveness in addressing short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs)—including methane, carbon monoxide, non-methane volatile organic compounds and black carbon—to supplement CO2 mitigation.

They estimated an emission reduction potential of −0.1 to −1.8 Gt carbon dioxide emission per yr in 2030. The largest benefits accrue from residential clean energy policy (biomass cooking) and air pollution regulation (curbing brick production and agricultural residue burning emissions), which cut black carbon. In the next 1–2 decades (using global warming potential—GWP20), emission reduction potentials of warming SLCFs exceed those of carbon dioxide, which is not evident on longer timescales. Concurrently, policies in the electricity generation and transport sectors reduce cooling SLCFs (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides), potentially unmasking 0.1–2.4 Gt carbon dioxide emission per yr. They suggest integrating these interventions into national climate policies can strengthen both climate action and sustainability. The crucial impact of black carbon suggests that it should be included in the international climate accord.

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