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Policy brief

The Case for Action on Black Carbon

1 December 2023
Reducing black carbon emissions will help in avoiding climate tipping points, building resilience and delivering clean air. This policy brief outlines the latest science on black carbon, examples of cost effective solutions, and recommendations for policymakers, funders and governments.

This briefing by Clean Air Fund, the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Berkeley Air Monitoring Group and Orbis Air highlights the importance of reducing black carbon emissions, alongside deep decarbonisation. The Case for Action on Black Carbon points to the gap between the growing evidence on black carbon’s regional climate impacts and its absence from global climate strategies.

The report summarises the latest science on black carbon, also knows as soot, which is emitted from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biomass, and waste. The report highlights the role black carbon plays in speeding up the melting of snow and ice in the Arctic, the Himalayas and the Andes, disrupting monsoon patterns in West Africa and India, and worsening the effects of dangerous heatwaves.

In addition to giving an overview of the climate impacts of black carbon emissions from key academic and scientific studies, the report highlights the numerous health impacts and the fact that marginalised and indigenous communities are often most at risk from these impacts. Black carbon is strongly correlated with increased blood pressure levels, a high-risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Exposure to black carbon during pregnancy has been linked to multiple adverse birth outcomes including low birth weight.

The report presents case studies from across the globe, which demonstrate cost-effective and practical solutions to reduce black carbon emissions immediately. These include transitioning to cleaner technologies in the Arctic and Africa, introducing ‘zigzag’ technology for firing brick kilns in Asia, and controlling wildfires through community engagement in forest management.

As COP28 kicks off, the brief provides recommendations for policy makers and funders and to advance the latest science and research on this important pollutant.

Growing up, I heard stories from my elders about the clear Himalayan range and bright blue sky. But I didn’t get to experience it fully. If we don’t act now against black carbon, this will be a myth for my next generation. From the COP28, we call upon the world leaders to initiate discourse about black carbon on climate conversation and take immediate action to curb it.

Diwakar, youth campaigner representing Save the Children Nepal

How to cite this report

Cite as: THE CASE  FOR ACTION ON BLACK CARBON: Avoiding climate tipping points, building  resilience and delivering clean air. Clean Air Fund, CSTEP, Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, Orbis Air, Daniel McDougall. Dec, 2023. https://www.cleanairfund.org/resource/black-carbon/