Chile also makes a further commitment in their revised NDC, to reduce black carbon emissions by 25% in 2030 compared to 2016 levels. Black carbon is a ‘short-lived climate pollutant’ (SLCP), so-called because it has a short atmospheric lifetime (a few days to a week), and because it directly contributes to atmospheric warming (through absorption of incoming radiation and through deposition on snow and ice). It is also a dangerous air pollutant.
As a component of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, black carbon is also a dangerous air pollutant. According to the World Health Organization PM2.5 is responsible for an estimated 7 million premature deaths per year, including five thousand in Chile in 2017. The major sources of black carbon in Chile are diesel vehicles, off-road machinery, firewood for heating and residential cooking, and biomass used as an energy source in the industrial sector. These sectors also emit other air pollutants, like nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, other particulates, and in some cases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Reducing emissions from major black carbon sources is therefore an effective strategy to simultaneously mitigate climate change while achieving local air quality and health benefits.
“Boosting Chile's climate change commitment, including a target to reduce black carbon highlights the importance of linking local policies with international policies,” said Jenny Mager, Head of mitigation and inventories, Climate Change Office, at Chile’s Ministry of Environment. “Achieving this black carbon target will improve air quality and human health. It will require various actions, including atmospheric decontamination plans, transport regulations, improvement in household energy efficiency; and emission standards for the main industrial polluters.”
A comprehensive analysis was conducted to assess Chile’s potential to reduce black carbon across all sources. It showed that, in 2030, with no new policies implemented, black carbon levels would remain at 2016 levels, and then increase by 30% by 2050. However, a ‘carbon neutrality’ scenario will substantially reduce black carbon emissions, 13% in 2030, and 35% in 2050 compared to 2016 levels. This emphasises the important additional benefits that decarbonisation has for improved air quality. A second scenario ‘carbon neutrality +’, included additional actions that specifically targeted black carbon sources, which would reduce black carbon emissions even further, up to 75% in 2050, compared to 2016 levels (see Figure 1 below).