08 June 2021
Air pollution has emerged as one of India’s gravest social and environmental problems in recent years. At the same time, the country is experiencing signs of a warming climate with potentially devastating effects in the long term. Energy-related fuel combustion is at the heart of both crises. It is a main source of three major air pollutants, NOx, SO2 and PM2.5, and the largest contributor to India’s CO2 emissions. In many locations, concentrations of particulate matter persistently exceed recommended national and international standards with severe implications for public health. In 2019 alone, India experienced an estimated 1.2 million air pollution-related premature deaths. At the same time, India’s growing economy is driving CO2 emissions, which increased by more than 55% in the last decade and are expected to rise by 50% to 2040. Today’s energy choices matter for future development, as they have direct and far-reaching implications for the lives of a growing population.
Energy-related air pollutants and CO2 emissions often arise from the same sources, therefore the adoption of an integrated approach to tackle both can deliver important co-benefits. A recent country report on Air quality and climate policy integration in India: Frameworks to deliver co-benefits, by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that well-designed, coherent policy packages can deliver such synergies if properly implemented. IIASA researchers contributed to this report by quantitatively assessing the energy projections developed by the IEA in terms of air pollutant emissions and PM2.5 concentrations and the corresponding adverse health impacts. According to the IIASA team, acknowledging these synergies in the design and implementation of future policy frameworks will provide a more impactful response to the most pressing national health and environmental challenges and offer great potential for India’s contribution in the global fight against climate change.
In order to demonstrate co-benefit potential, this report provides quantitative analysis that presents the ways in which flagship energy policies can contribute to both air pollution reduction and climate change mitigation in tandem. Four key sectors are assessed for this purpose: captive power plants, industrial energy efficiency, road transport electrification and expanded access to clean cooking. Policy frameworks that accommodate these synergies will provide a more impactful response and deliver durable benefits to the most pressing national health and environmental challenges, while offering great potential for India’s contribution in the global fight against climate change.
Last edited: 08 June 2021
Senior Research Scholar Pollution Management Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program
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