20 Apr 2018 Press release Air

Efforts to reduce air and climate pollutants in Latin America could reap immediate health benefits


  • Poor air quality and climate change are already impacting vulnerable populations and ecosystems in the Latin American and Caribbean region, resulting in premature deaths, crop losses and ecosystem damage.
  • Implementing measures to reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons, by 2050, can reduce warming in the region by up to 0.9 degrees Celsius, reduce premature mortality from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by at least 26% annually, and avoid the loss of 3–4 million tonnes of four staple crops each year.

Panama City, April 19, 2018. Efforts to reduce dangerous air and climate pollutants by Latin American and Caribbean countries could reap immediate and long-term benefits for health, food security and the climate according to the first ever Integrated Assessment of Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) for the region.

Short-lived climate pollutants – which include black carbon (or soot), methane, ground level (tropospheric) ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – all have a global warming potential hundreds to thousands times that of carbon dioxide. Black carbon and ozone also seriously impact human and plant health.  

The assessment, developed by 90 authors and led by experts from the region was released today by UN Environment and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. It found poor air quality and climate change is already affecting vulnerable populations and environment in the region resulting in premature deaths, crop yield losses, and ecosystem damage.

In 2010 an estimated 64,000 people died prematurely in the region from exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground level (tropospheric) ozone. Ozone was also responsible for an estimated 7.4 million tonnes in yield losses of soybean, maize, wheat, and rice. If no action is taken to improve air quality, by 2050 annual premature mortality from PM2.5 and ozone exposure is expected to almost double while annual crop losses could rise to about 9 million tonnes.

“This report recommends concrete measures aimed to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. If countries in the region put in place those measures, they will contribute to maintain the planet´s temperature below the 2˚C threshold set out in the Paris climate agreement,” said Leo Heileman, UN Environment Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Implementing emission reduction measures, by 2050, can reduce warming in the region by up to 0.9 degrees Celsius, reduce premature deaths from fine particulate matter pollution by at least 26%, and ozone by 40%, annually, and avoid the loss of 3–4 million tonnes of four staple crops – soybeans, maize, wheat, and rice – each year.

Agriculture, transport, domestic and commercial refrigeration are the sectors that product the largest emissions of methane, black carbon, particulate matter, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Over 45% of methane emissions could be reduced by 2050 through six actions in four sectors: oil and gas production and distribution, waste management, coal mining, and agriculture. These include activities like: the recovery and use of vented gas in oil and gas production, separation and treatment of biodegradable municipal solid waste, and recovering biogas from livestock manure using anaerobic digestion.

Black carbon emissions can be reduced by over 80% by 2050 in most countries by focusing on initiatives that modernize cooking and heating stoves, improve diesel vehicle standards to Euro VI equivalent, put diesel particulate filters on vehicles, eliminate high emitting vehicles, and enforce bans on open field agricultural burning.

For more information, contact:

Tiy Chung, Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Secretariat, tiy.chung@un.org