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Experts Gather at COP28 Workshop to Discuss Synergetic Control of Climate Change and Air Pollution

EF China hosts an air quality-climate change-energy workshop at its COP28 Pavilion on December 8, 2023. Photo by EF China

On December 8, Energy Foundation China (EF China), Tsinghua University’s Institute of Carbon Neutrality, and the China Clean Air Policy Partnership jointly hosted an international workshop “Synergy of World-Class Air Quality, Safe Climate, and Sustainable Energy—Catalyzing and Driving Practical Actions” in Dubai, as part of EF China’s COP28 Pavilion activities themed on “Enhancing Ambition Through Implementation.” This event gathered climate and environmental experts from international organizations, local environmental protection organizations, research institutions, financial institutions, and philanthropies. Focused on policy progress in synergetic air pollution and climate change, local clean air-driven carbon mitigation practices, current challenges, and potential solutions, the workshop aimed to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between China and the international community, bring together various stakeholders, accelerate climate actions, and promote sustainable development in China and the world.

During the event, an EF China-supported English-version report titled “China’s Path to Carbon Neutrality and Clean Air Collaboration (2023 Edition)” was released. The meeting was co-moderated by David Vance Wagner, Vice President of EF China, and Liu Xin, Director of Environmental Management Program of EF China.

He Kebin, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Dean of the Institute of Carbon Neutrality at Tsinghua University, gives his speech at the meeting on December 8, 2023. Photo by EF China

Liu Xin, Director of Environment Management Program at EF China, gives his speech at the meeting on December 8, 2023. Photo by EF China

Ann Jeannette Glauber, Practice Manager for Environment, Natural Resources, and Blue Economy in East Asia and the Pacific Region at the World Bank gives her speech at the meeting on December 8, 2023. Photo by EF China

David Vance Wagner, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Energy Foundation China moderates the panel discussion session. Photo by EF China

The experts at the workshop recognized the progress China has made in recent years in the prevention and control of atmospheric pollution. The report finds that, from 2013 to 2020, the implementation of clean air measures in China resulted in a 57% reduction in PM2.5 concentration, accompanied by a 69% increase in GDP, a 20% reduction in health risks, and a cumulative reduction of 2.43 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions through synergistic actions.

Beijing started to clean its air in 1998 and has now attained all indicators in China’s air quality standards, mainly through reducing its coal consumption by 97%. This effort happened along with an 18.8-fold increase in economic output and a cumulative reduction of 870 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Experience from various places in China validates that the implementation of air quality improvement policies centered on structural adjustments, such as low carbon energy transition and industrial upgrading, can bring about multiple benefits in terms of climate mitigation, health improvement, and economic growth.

The experts at the workshop highlighted several challenges facing the co-control of air quality and climate change. They pointed out that there is substantial health impact of air pollution, and 99% of the global population still live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines levels, resulting in nearly 7 million premature deaths each year, two-thirds of which happened in economically and environmentally fragile regions, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. In China, PM2.5 levels remain significantly higher than WHO air quality guidelines, with severe pollution in places like Linfen City. Considering the global aging process, the health impact of air pollution may be further exacerbated. The experts also said that people are yet to achieve a consensus on the concept and detail of coordinated pollution and carbon reduction actions. Governments, sectors, and the public have different understandings of the goals or pathways for achieving coordinated effectiveness in air quality improvement, climate mitigation, energy decarbonization, and economic growth. Evaluation methods and tools still need to be optimized. At the same time, there is a massive financial demand for moving toward climate neutrality. The economic losses caused by air pollution amount to 9–10% of the global GDP each year. Significant funding is required to achieve world-class air quality and climate neutrality at the same time.

The experts agreed that collaborative governance will help achieve multiple benefits due to the common origin of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. They made several suggestions as follows:

1. Enhance Systematic Research on Synergistic Efficiency in Air, Climate, Health, Energy, and Economic Collaboration.
2. Elevate the Ambition of Air-Climate Synergetic Governance.
3. Strengthen the Role of Energy Transformation in Carbon and Pollution Reduction.
4. Accelerate Regional Collaborative Governance for Carbon and Pollution Reduction in the Asia-Pacific Region.
5. Transform the Enormous Costs of Achieving Carbon Neutrality into Investment Opportunities for Growth and Employment.
6. Prioritize Short-Lived Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Projects.
7. Strengthen Communication Strategies for Carbon and Pollution Reduction.

Experts share their insights at the meeting on December 8, 2023. Photo by EF China

EF China has supported the improvement of air quality in China and the implementation of synergistic criteria pollution and carbon reduction in key areas. In the future, EF China aims to further support relevant research and exchanges, promote more innovative and feasible solutions, and enhance international collaboration on coordinated air quality improvement and carbon reduction, so as to contribute more efforts to global climate change and air quality improvement. 

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