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Past Saltsjöbaden Workshops

The first workshop was held at Saltsjöbaden outside Stockholm in April 2000. The aim was to discuss and outline further initiatives within the UNECE Air Convention and the EU, following the recent ratification of Gothenburg Protocol and the protocols on heavy metals and POPs. The idea behind the workshop and the format was to discuss, under informal conditions, how science and policy should be developed in order to support further negotiations and actions on transboundary air pollution. The workshop became a starting point for the continued work both within the Convention and the European Commission, not the least the outline of the CAFE programme.
All subsequent workshops have taken place in Gothenburg, although they have been called ‘Saltsjöbaden Workshops’ because they have all followed the concept originally developed for the first workshop.
All workshops have, as mentioned above, ended in a set of strategic recommendations with respect to the further development of international air quality science and policy. The most significant recommendations from earlier meetings were:
  • 2000:
    The workshop pointed in particular to the increased importance of health effects for future international collaboration, in particular the increased role of the Air Convention Task Force for Health (TFH);
  • 2004:
    The intercontinental and hemispheric dimension of air pollution received increased attention and, as consequence of the workshop, the Air Convention set up a task force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (TFHTAP);
  • 2007:
    A key recommendation from the workshop was to initiate integrated activities on nitrogen under the Air Convention (TFRN). The workshop also brought up the importance of atmospheric pollutants for the climate, and the issue of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP);
    • 2009:
      The workshop took a broad approach to the linkages between air pollution and climate change, in particular SLCP. The outcome was brought to the UNFCCC community, in particular to the COP 15 in Copenhagen 2009;
    • 2013:
      The workshop raised the issues of outreach to various stakeholders, including the public, as well as the issue of implementation of signed protocols.
    • 2018:
      The workshop expanded the collaboration horizon both outwards and inwards. The recommendations urged the international community to engage more in transregional cooperation, which subsequently led to the inauguration of the Global Forum for International Cooperation on Air Pollution (FICAP) and the corresponding Air Convention Task Force for International Cooperation on Air Pollution. Furthermore, the workshop also stressed the importance of engaging with city air quality planners and policymakers, a recommendation that spawned the Air Convention Expert Panel on Clean Air in Cities (EPCAC).
      Of specific policy interest was that the workshop stressed the importance of some sort of flexibility for parties in the Eastern region of the Air Convention in their process of ratifying Air Convention protocols. Flexibility here meaning stepwise ratification of protocols rather than ratifying all parts at once.

    For the first time, Saltsjöbaden VI arranged an early career workshop, aimed at facilitating the understanding of scientists and policymakers new to the field of transboundary air pollution. At this workshop, an air quality negotiation simulation exercise was held for new and early career researchers and professionals, to learn about the nature of international negotiations and the different perspectives that play a role and to gain experience in finding creative solutions that can bridge contrasting stakes of various parties. At Saltsjöbaden VI it was recommended that such early career workshops continue to be held, where possible, in order to encourage other young professionals to participate in air quality science and policy work, particularly under the Air Convention. Subsequently, this workshop was held during the 40th anniversary of the Air Convention as well as during Saltsjöbaden VII.
    Several recommendations are repeated at each workshop, firstly because of difficulties in fulfilling them, and secondly because they need to be repeated in order to not be forgotten. Such recommendations include:
    • Better communication to the public
    • Better communication to finance ministries
    • Closer cooperation with the UN FCCC
    • Stable funding of effects work

    The first three workshops were organized within the framework of the Mistra ASTA research programme and the following mainly with support from the Swedish Environment Protection Agency. The Nordic Council of Ministers has supported all workshops. Other organizations, such as the European Commission and the UNECE, have supported some of the workshops.

    The Saltsjöbaden VII Workshop

    The world is under pressure. In recent times we have seen increased threats to nature, health and welfare, and society as a whole. Climate change, the Covid 19 pandemic and the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and conflicts in other parts of the world are examples of high-concern threats. Air pollution should be added to the list of pressures. With more than 7 million premature deaths annually and far more people suffering from poor air quality, air pollution is also a global threat. In addition, the numbers are increasing and the assumption that there are safe levels of air pollution is losing credibility. There are also risks for rollbacks of already achieved improvements.
    However, important initiatives to improve the air pollution situations around the world are under way. The World Health Organization published in September 2021 new and stricter air quality guidelines. A review of the Gothenburg Protocol under the Air Convention was finalized in 2022. UNEP recently published its report on the global status of air pollution, highlighting the need for common actions. Initiatives are being taken to control methane emissions. Further, the linkages between climate change / biodiversity and air pollution are receiving increased attention, opening for synergies in control strategies. Finally, the newly inaugurated International Forum for International Cooperation on Air Pollution (FICAP) is opening new venues for international cooperation on air pollution policies and science. Correspondingly, the workshop was arranged around six main discussions, all with the over-arching objective of clarifying if and how international science and policy cooperation can accelerate the transition to a world with less air pollution.

    Parallel discussion 1: Attain good air quality in airsheds at risk

    The first discussion addressed three themes of concern for hotspot areas of air pollution. The implementation and interpretation of WHO’s new air quality guidelines was one such theme, coupled with the matter of how to increase air quality monitoring using low-cost sensors in areas with limited financial resources. A second theme was related to emission sources, as regard both sustainable residential heating and mobility challenges. The third theme was the future of sustainable cities with clean air and discussing how to support such a movement and how to increase the use of air quality co-benefits from initiatives targeting biodiversity, climate change, etc.

    Parallel discussion 2: Achieve policy-relevant understanding of air pollution effects on health

    The second discussion focused on how to increase the uptake of scientific developments in our knowledge of the health effects of air pollution. The three main themes addressed how to estimate the health impacts of air pollution, how to improve communication of health impacts so that early action is promoted, and finally, which policy measures, legal actions and structural and behavioural changes are effective in reducing the health effects of air pollution.

    Parallel discussion 3: Fulfil Air Convention objectives

    The third discussion investigated international cooperation within the UNECE region and on the Air Convention. The themes of the discussion were related to issues such as: how to improve implementation of the Amended Gothenburg Protocol, how to increase policy cooperation with related policy areas such as biodiversity (UNCBD) and climate change (UNFCCC), how to address imported pollution from areas outside the UNECE, and how to encourage further ratification of the existing protocols.

    Parallel discussion 4: Transform nitrogen waste into nitro-resources and flourishing ecosystems

    The discussion on nitrogen focused on the effects of future macro-level changes of e.g. global population, diet and mobility. It also discussed effects of the recent spikes in the price of nitrogen fertilizers. Other themes related to further developments of nitrogen budget techniques and emerging technologies to use ammonia as an energy carrier that might increase emissions of nitrogen compounds if not governed correctly.

    Parallel discussion 5: Integrate policies and research on air pollution, climate change and biodiversity

    The fifth discussion looked at the integrated areas of climate change, air pollution and biodiversity. The themes of the discussions were related to Arctic warming, global methane policy initiatives, actions in the agricultural sector, as well as how to increase scientific and policy cooperation with the Convention on Biodiversity.

    Parallel discussion 6: Accomplish significant air quality improvements through international cooperation

    The final parallel discussion was focused on how the Air Convention initiatives can better cooperate with regional initiatives in other parts of the world. This included identifying common barriers and opportunities for reduced air pollution, as well as how to improve cooperation between neighbouring countries with respect to emission reduction and information sharing.