Policy Action

Policy Action

The path towards reduced emissions of black carbon include applying the best available technologies and practices, developing new technologies, and ensuring that the policy context provides incentives for action.

A major task for the EU funded Action on Black Carbon in the Arctic has been to analyze different options for policy action that would contribute to reducing black carbon emissions. The results are presented in the report Enhancing the reduction of black carbon emissions to protect the Arctic: Mapping the policy landscape of national, regional and international action (available soon).

An important aim of mapping of the policy landscape has been to support integration of policy initiatives across the different national, regional and international fora and sectors that are engaged in black carbon issues, with the Arctic Council and the UNECE Air Convention as key priorities. Another aim has been to identify further technical and scientific work needed to support policy development. The focus has been on five source sectors that are of major significance to black carbon emissions impacting the Arctic:

Turning targets into action

For each source of black carbon emissions, it is possible to identify specific and concrete actions that can reduce the emissions. Actions can include:

  • Non-binding policy statements that guide actors on future goals
  • Legislative proposals that put demands on actors to make technical improvements reducing emissions
  • Economic incentives for forerunners
  • Information and guidance to change practice
  • Funding of research and innovation
  • Establishment and improvements of monitoring and inventories that strengthen the knowledge base

Details on different policy options for reducing emissions from flaring are described in the report Elements in the policy landscape for action on black carbon in the Arctic: Supporting material to the EUA-BCA report Enhancing the reduction of black carbon emissions to protect the Arctic and summarized in the report Enhancing the reduction of black carbon emissions to protect the Arctic: Mapping the policy landscape of national, regional and international action (available soon).

Assessments, emissions reporting, and monitoring

Scientific assessments provide background for changes in policies and legislation. They include the AMAP Assessment 2015: Black carbon and ozone and Arctic climate forcers and the AMAP Assessment 2021: Impacts of short-lived climate forcers on Arctic climate, air quality, and human health, release in May 2021. These in turn rely heavily on input from emissions reporting and monitoring to create scenarios of the climate and health impact of different policies and the effectiveness of their implementation.

Assessments of the effectiveness of policy actions rely on nations reporting their emissions to relevant international bodies. Nation states belonging to the UNECE Air Convention and/or are committed to the Arctic Council Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions are formally encouraged to report their national black carbon emissions inventories under these fora. Member States of the EU on the other hand are obliged to report black carbon emissions under the NEC Directive, if national black carbon emissions inventories are available. Despite a large proportion of countries regularly submitting black carbon emissions inventories, the EUA-BCA Technical report Review of Reporting Systems for National Black Carbon Emissions Inventories concluded that non-reporting countries represent a substantial data gap, particularly from an Arctic perspective. The report furthermore highlighted issues in terms transparency, accuracy, comparability, consistency, and completeness of the reported emissions data. There is thus a pressing need to mobilize further regular voluntary reporting of black carbon emissions and to improve the quality of the reported data.

From an Arctic perspective, it is crucial that systems for monitoring emissions be supported by a network of observation stations monitoring ambient air black carbon and black carbon deposition at remote Arctic locations. The EUA-BCA Technical report Review of Observation Capacities and Data Availability for Black Carbon in the Arctic Region documented Arctic black carbon monitoring is currently limited by a lack of observation stations in certain regions and furthermore highlighted the need for improved coordination.

Details on different policy options for reducing emissions from flaring are described in the report Elements in the policy landscape for action on black carbon in the Arctic: Supporting material to the EUA-BCA report Enhancing the reduction of black carbon emissions to protect the Arctic. While the report details a number of specific policy options, a common underlying feature throughout is the opportunity for cooperation across various fora, particularly between the Arctic Council and the UNECE Air Convention.

Overview of the policy landscape

The major forum for international policy discussions related to black carbon in the Arctic is the Arctic Council. Conventions and international collaborations with a broad international engagement are the UNECE Air Convention (Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution/CLRTAP) with its Gothenburg Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the accompanying assessment processes by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Other collaborative fora include the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the newly launched global forum for international cooperation on air pollution, the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) Partnership and its Zero Routine Gas Flaring Initiative by 2030, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Arctic Council

At the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting held in Fairbanks, Alaska in May 2017, member states (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States) adopted an aspirational goal to collectively reduce black carbon emissions by at least 25-33 percent below 2013 levels by 2025. The recommendation was based on the Council’s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane. Arctic Council countries report emissions to this expert group, which issues a detailed report with recommendations every two years.

The AMAP Working Group under the Council has an Expert Group on Short-Lived Climate Forcers, which prepares scientific assessments and summaries for policy makers of the latest scientific information.  An updated assessment to AMAP Assessment 2015: Black carbon and ozone as Arctic climate forcers will be published May 2021.

The ACAP Working Group has developed a Black Carbon Case Studies Platform to facilitate sharing of insights and best practices across the region. ACAP has also published several reports about specific measures to reduce black carbon emissions from sources within the Arctic, including gas flaring.

The PAME Working Group (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment) works specifically on mitigating risks associated with the use and carriage of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) by vessels in the Arctic which emit black carbon emissions.

The EUA-BCA has worked closely with the Arctic Council, and specifically with the above working groups and expert groups, in support of activities to reduce black carbon emissions and meet or exceed the aspirational goal.

The UNECE Air Convention or Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP)

The Air Convention under the United Nations Economic Commission to Europe (UNECE) includes parties from Europe and North America to develop policies and strategies to cut emissions of air pollutants. Among its different processes are negotiations related to its Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone. The Gothenburg Protocol, as amended in 2012, calls for Parties to voluntarily submit black carbon emissions inventories and projections using guidelines developed by its Task Force on Emission Inventories and Projections. The Gothenburg Protocol also includes attention to small particles, so-called PM2.5 (particulate matter of size 2.5 micrometres). Because black carbon occurs as very small particles and is part of PM 2.5, efforts to reduce PM2.5 would also reduce emissions of black carbon.

The Air Convention under the United Nations Economic Commission to Europe (UNECE) includes parties from Europe and North America to develop policies and strategies to cut emissions of air pollutants. Among its different processes are negotiations related to its Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone. The Gothenburg Protocol, as amended in 2012, calls for Parties to voluntarily submit black carbon emissions inventories and projections using guidelines developed by its Task Force on Emission Inventories and Projections. The Gothenburg Protocol also includes attention to small particles, so-called PM2.5 (particulate matter of size 2.5 micrometres). Because black carbon occurs as very small particles and is part of PM 2.5, efforts to reduce PM2.5 would also reduce emissions of black carbon.

An important aim of the EUA-BCA is to support policy action under the Air Convention and to provide data for emission inventories and scenarios and monitoring. The amended Gothenburg Protocol is currently undergoing a review  and the EUA-BCA submitted documents documents in support of black carbon emission reductions for consideration  by the Convention’s Working Group on Strategies and Review (WGSR). The WGSR evaluates scientific and technical activities relating to the Air Convention protocols, negotiates amendments and drafts new protocols, promotes technology exchange, and drafts proposals for strategic development in the framework of the UNECE Air Convention. Members from the EU funded Action on Black Carbon are involved in the work of the WGSR and also engage in the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the long-range transport of air pollutants with the aid of emission inventories, measurements and model calculations, and the CLRTAP Working Group on Effects (WGE).

In December 2019, on the occasion of the Air Convention’s 40th Anniversary, the parties to the convention launched a forum for international cooperation on air pollution to support international exchange of information and mutual learning on both the technical and policy levels. It is intended to be a repository for technical information and a convener of countries and organizations, facilitating increased international cooperation on this critical challenge. The EU funded Action was invited to organize a side-event at this meeting titled: “Eye on Black Carbon in the Arctic” to engage with parties to the Air Convention to raise the profile to take further policy actions on black carbon. The event was well attended with many excellent recommendations given which will be helpful in preparing the roadmap.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

UNFCCC is the major forum for international political cooperation to reduce climate change. Black carbon is not covered by current commitments under the UNFCCC but has more recently received attention in IPCC.

IPCC’s fifth assessment (AR5) included attention to black carbon in Working Group (WG) III’s discussion of mitigation options, e.g. with attention to the co-benefits in relation to improving air quality and as a potential short-term mitigation strategy in combination with long-lived greenhouse gases. The role of black carbon in climate forcing is discussed by WG I in its 2014 report, including its impact on surface albedo when deposited on snow and its climate forcing role as an aerosol.

In 2019, the IPCC approved that its Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories produce an IPCC Methodology Report on Short-lived Climate Forcers, including black carbon. The overall objective is “to fill gaps in existing methodologies and to develop and disseminate an internationally-agreed, globally applicable methodological guidance based on existing methodologies.” The process creates a platform for paying more attention to black carbon in future IPCC assessments and in climate negotiations under the UNFCCC. Future meetings of the IPCC’s Expert Group SLCFs will take place in 2021.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The IMO works with regulations to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from shipping. Within this context, it has initiated investigations of the role of black carbon from shipping and potential abatement technologies to reduce emissions. Read more under Maritime shipping.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations committed to improving air quality and protecting the climate through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including black carbon. It began in 2012 based on the premise that measures targeting short-lived climate pollutants could achieve “win-win” results for the climate, air quality, and human wellbeing over a relatively short timeframe.

World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) Partnership and the Zero Routine (Gas) Flaring Emissions by 2030

Partnership is a public-private initiative comprising international and national oil companies, national and regional governments, and international institutions. It works to increase use of natural gas associated with oil production by helping remove technical and regulatory barriers to flaring reduction, conducting research, disseminating best practices, and developing country-specific gas flaring reduction programs. The EU funded Action on Black Carbon is collaborating with the World Banks’ GGFR to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic from gas flaring from oil and gas operations. All the oil and gas producing countries in the Arctic (Canada, Norway, Russia and United States) are members of the GGFR Partnership.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The OECD brings together member countries (currently there are 36 including many EU countries) and partners which collaborate on key global issues at the national, regional and local levels. The EUA-BCA provided baseline and mitigation scenarios in support of the OECD study The Economic Benefits of Air Quality Improvement in the Arctic Council Countries.