This impact story is from our 2020 annual report.
SEI partnered with Colombia to raise the country’s sights on climate change – and improve health – by setting an ambitious but achievable target to reduce black carbon.
SEI supported an integrated assessment of climate change and air pollution mitigation in Colombia, a process that resulted in the country expanding its climate commitment under the Paris Agreement with a significant black carbon emission reduction target. Setting this target, alongside a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 51% by 2030, means Colombia’s climate change plans will substantially improve the health of its people.
Boosting climate change ambition in Colombia and improving air quality and health
To support Colombia in revising its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, SEI helped the Colombian Ministry of Environment assess the air pollution benefits that would come from implementing national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project evaluated additional mitigation options that specifically target major black carbon emission sources. Using SEI’s LEAP (Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning) tool to quantify emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, SEI held virtual workshops with the Ministry to demonstrate how LEAP could be applied to the analysis. The team held discussions with stakeholders in sectors that are heavy emitters of black carbon, which helped them evaluate and refine mitigation actions. These exchanges were facilitated by evidence from the modelling; in particular in estimating the health and environmental impacts of mitigation strategies.
The Ministry was encouraged by the findings, which showed important synergies between air quality and climate protection, and recommended the revised NDC include a black carbon target: cutting emissions 30% from 2014 levels. This advice was followed when President Iván Duque Márquez committed to reducing Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 51% and black carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 (compared to 2014). The 51% goal more than doubles the greenhouse gas target in Colombia’s first NDC (20%). Pairing it with the black carbon target will not only reduce black carbon, a component of particulate matter with impacts on respiratory and cardiovascular health, but will simultaneously reduce other pollutants when the measures to achieve the target (e.g. stringent vehicle emission standards and more efficient cookstoves) are put in place.
The work in Colombia is a model for how countries can increase their climate change mitigation ambition by demonstrating synergies with sustainable development. Many countries, including Bangladesh, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Chile and Mexico, are now considering development benefits as they revise their Paris Agreement commitments.
The value of long-term engagement with national stakeholders
SEI’s work with Colombia underscores the importance of building long-term collaborations to promote effective decision-making. The black carbon target is the product of an eight-year partnership between the Ministry of Environment and SEI, which began with modelling of short-lived climate pollution in 2013. In 2016 and 2017, SEI supported the development of Colombia’s first national black carbon emissions inventory. This output, and its review and endorsement by the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), provided a nationally recognized reference point against which a target could be set. In 2018, the Ministry published its first National Strategy on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a roadmap of steps and conditions needed to increase action on black carbon. These processes provided a foundation of data, analysis, and expertise on the links between air pollution and climate change that made Colombia’s announcement possible.
President Iván Duque Márquez committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% and black carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, more than doubling Colombia’s previous greenhouse gas target.
A series of next steps are planned to realize the black carbon target. First, the team will conduct further LEAP modelling to identify further mitigation actions needed to achieve the enhanced goal (40% versus 30%) announced by President Duque. SEI will also work with the Ministry of Environment to develop materials, tools and approaches to help sub-national government authorities integrate the mitigation actions in their planning. This is a key activity as air quality is a devolved issue in Colombia, with responsibility for improvements delegated to sub-national agencies.
And In 2021, SEI will work with the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Health, as well as the World Health Organization, to quantify the health and economic benefits that can be achieved from attaining the new NDC targets.
The experience in Colombia is a model for how countries can increase their climate change mitigation ambition by demonstrating synergies with sustainable development. Many countries, including Bangladesh, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Chile and Mexico, are now following this example and considering development benefits as part of their NDC revision process, often with SEI’s support. SEI is helping these efforts through its Initiative on Integrated Climate and Development Planning, which is providing improved methods, tools and models for quantifying connections between climate change mitigation and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Strategy in action
Priority for changeGovernment plans for low-carbon pathways with multiple benefits
The work in Colombia shows how long-term engagement with national partners can progress from developing capacity, to improving decision making, and ultimately to changing a policy agenda.
Types of outcomeChanging agendas (1), Improving decisions (2), Enhancing capacities (3)
The inclusion of a specific and ambitious target to reduce black carbon in Colombia’s climate target (NDC), alongside a commitment to reduce by 51% by 2030, consistent with full decarbonization by 2050, ensures that Colombia’s climate change plans will achieve multiple, local benefits for the health of Colombians.