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Recommen­dations from Saltsjöbaden VII

The text below presents the most pressing and actionable recommendations from the parallel discussions. The recommendations specify the intended recipient(s) most suitable to take on the recommendations for actions. Since this was the 7th Saltsjöbaden workshop, we could build on previous experience and discuss new ways of thinking, to improve the uptake of the recommendations. The recommendations are organized in three groups. We first present an overarching recommendation, followed by a set of cross-cutting recommendations. Finally, we present specific recommendations from each parallel discussion. Some of the topic-specific recommendations have been moved to become part of the cross-cutting recommendations. Except for the overarching recommendation, the recommendations are not ordered with respect to importance. The recipient organizations for the recommendations are in most cases only mentioned using their initials. For explanation see the list of abbreviations at the end of the report. The order the organizations listed does not indicate any priority.

Over-arching recommendation

Consider setting a global target for air quality control
A global environmental agreement for air pollution does not exist. Common environmental targets, however, have proven to provide good motivation for ambitious cooperation both internationally and within countries. Such global targets have been inspirational for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (limit global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius), and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (protect 30 per cent of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas and inland waters). In a similar way, a target for air pollution could be formed as a reduction of XX per cent between a base year and the target year. A suggestion presented at the workshop was that a 50 per cent improvement in health effects should be achieved by 2035. Such a target needs, however, to be further assessed and elaborated before presented at top-level meetings in key organizations. Future discussions also need to include possible targets for other air pollution effects.
Recipients: Air Convention Executive Body (EB), UNEP General Assembly, WHO General Assembly. Air Convention TFIAM & FICAP

Cross-cutting recommendations

Of the recommendations from the parallel discussions, four themes can be presented under common headings. These themes include various aspects of methane emission management, nitrogen management, integration of international environmental policies and efforts to communicate more effectively.
Increase action on methane as a tropospheric ozone precursor and as a key co-beneficial air pollution and climate change compound
For several of the Saltsjöbaden discussion groups, methane stands out as a problem that requires more attention from the air pollution science and policy communities. It is established that methane emissions at a hemispheric scale strongly affect the UN/ECE’s ability to reach regional targets for ground-level ozone concentrations. It is also established that much of the methane is co-emitted with ammonia emissions from agriculture. And particularly for the non-agricultural sources, there is an abundance of very cost-effective methane measures, some that also reduce emissions of fine particulate matter. Given that methane is a short-lived climate pollutant and air pollutant precursor, science and policy responses are needed to address the recommendations that follow.
  • Set binding methane targets and increase ambition on ammonia in environmental agreements
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, EMEP, WGE, WGSR and corresponding bodies under the European Commission
  • Give high priority to the understanding of the methane/ozone problem and the development of international and national strategies for methane emission reductions to reduce ozone problems
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, WGSR, TFIAM and parties to the Air Convention
  • Urgently prepare national positions on how to tackle emission reductions of methane as an ozone precursor
    Recipients: parties to the Air Convention
  • Expand the mandate of TFRN to include agricultural methane emissions
    Recipients: parties to the Air Convention
  • Mobilize resources, including financial resources, to support knowledge transfer to regions outside the UN/ECE on the importance of global-scale methane mitigation for air pollution abatement
    Recipients: Air Convention FICAP
  • Assess the effects on short-term climate change from air pollution mitigation in the decision-support material delivered to the Air Convention and the European Commission
    Mitigation of methane and conventional air pollutants are affecting climate in the short term. This effect should be included in the assessments of Air Convention and EU control strategies.
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, EMEP, WGE and WGSR. Corresponding bodies under the European Commission

Increase engagement in actions that lead to sharper and faster reduction of UN/ECE ammonia emissions
Although regulated in the Air Convention Gothenburg protocol since 1999, ammonia emissions in the UN/ECE have not decreased as fast as the other pollutants regulated in the protocol. Correspondingly, the ecosystem effects related to ammonia are not progressing at the same rate as ecosystem effects related to other pollutants. Further, the atmospheric behaviour of ammonia is changing, implying longer time in gas phase and shorter distances travelled. In addition, at least two parallel trends are ongoing, which both motivates increased attention to ammonia. The world market prices of nitrogen fertilizers have increased three-fold over just a few years, and new climate-friendly technological innovations are at risk of increasing ammonia emissions. Correspondingly, several discussion groups provided recommendations related to nitrogen in general and ammonia in particular.
  • Develop and apply nitrogen reuse policies within the agricultural/food sector
    Recipients: EB, TFRN, TFIAM, EU, World Bank
  • Promote a change in the EU Industrial Emissions Directive so that the livestock unit threshold for reporting/action on ammonia emissions is maximum 100 LSU
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, EU member states
  • Collect more detailed farm-level data on land use, economy, and emissions to overcome barriers to the implementation of known measures for agriculture
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, TFEIP and TFIAM
  • Assess environmental risks and consequences for increased nitrogen emissions if ammonia is used as an energy carrier
    Recipients: UNECE, EU, IMO, Air Convention EMEP, TFHTAP and TFRN
Continue efforts to, and specify how, the Air Convention can become more active and build better synergies with other international environmental agreements
Several discussion groups identified specific international environmental agreements that should be approached with information on how their priorities and targets are affected by air pollution. On the flip side, to fulfil its objectives and to put it higher on the political agenda, the Air Convention needs to establish/intensify linkages and synergies with the very same international environmental agreements. The EU Zero Pollution Action can serve as a model for making policy linkages. More specifically:
  • Engage through the planned UNEP Science Policy Panel on chemicals, waste and pollution
    Recipients: Air Convention EB, EMEP, WGE and WGSR
  • Ensure that European CAP includes cross-compliance with the EU Habitat directive with respect to nitrogen air pollution impacts
    Recipients: EU member states
  • Support and contribute to the UNFCCC process for development of guidelines for SLCF emission inventories
    Recipients: Air Convention TFEIP
  • Initiate and promote a special UNFCCC report on “Air Pollution and Climate” to support the current UNFCCC process, and for the benefit of policies under the Air Convention
    Recipients: Air Convention EMEP and WGE, WMO, UNFCCC

Strengthen communication activities and develop tailor-made activities
Communication and outreach also emerged as a common theme in several discussion groups. There were discussions on engaging new communities (journalists, medical specialists, other ministries than the environmental, and other international and non-governmental organizations). There were also discussions on more modern forms of communication such as e-courses and other forms of direct knowledge sharing. In this context, the importance of stricter adherence to advice from communication experts was flagged as a key issue. These efforts can help air pollution scientists and policymakers to better reach other professional communities and civil society for enhancing focus on air quality, liveable cities, nature engagement, international cooperation, links to climate agenda etc. There is a need to engage across the usual silos (energy, transportation, health, education, urban planning) through a multi-level governance approach. For this, communication efforts need more innovation. More specifically, the discussion groups have inter alia identified the following:
  • Concentrate communication to policymakers, civil society, and the public on the findings where there is overall scientific consensus
    Despite ongoing scientific developments, there are no doubts about serious health and ecosystem effects from air pollution. And for health effects, no safe levels can be observed. This should always be emphasized.
    Recipients: TFH, assisted by all parties to the Air Convention, including stakeholders such as NGOs. In addition: the air pollution scientific community, all levels of governments, including local (city) governments. However, responsibility lies with all organizations endowed with communication departments, journalists, academia and NGOs etc.
  • Unfold the complexity in the communication of air pollution health effects and simplify the messages
    Adapt and simplify key messages to different target groups and enhance credibility by explaining why academic results can differ. Communication improvements should include the understanding of local or one’s own contribution to poor air quality, the need for action, ways to mitigate exposure, links to environmental justice, efficiency of policy process, and personal experiences of those affected by pollution. Moreover, the availability of appealing communication tools, such as infographics, are needed to ‘make the invisible killer visible’.
    Recipients: All levels of government, including local (city) governments, TFH. But responsibility lies with all organizations endowed with communication departments, journalists, academia and NGOs etc.
  • Develop practical guidelines/roadmaps on air quality monitoring and management adapted to low- and middle-income countries
    Recipients: Air Convention FICAP, TFH, EB, TFMM
  • Communicate to stakeholders inside and outside the Air Convention that the future development of agricultural policy is of central importance for achieving not only air pollution objectives, but also climate change and biodiversity objectives
    Recipient: Air Convention EB

Inter-regional cooperation will also be dependent on successful communication efforts. Three main recommendations stand out:
  • Use FICAP to work with UNEP to streamline online resources
    These should include air quality guidance documents as well as tools and knowledge from the scientific community. It is important to identify user needs and make resources user-friendly. Further, materials must be translated into several languages.
    Recipients: Air Convention FICAP in coordination with UNEP
  • Package easy to understand, positive messaging or campaign that AQ has improved but additional progress is possible and must be achieved
    Work on ways to provide better communication and the right narrative to the public. Engage the younger generation, journalists, medical specialists, NGOs and the private sector. Events such as the International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies should be used.
    Recipients: Air Convention FICAP, international air pollution funding organizations
  • Identify champions at the local and national levels, to provide expertise for global south-to-south and north-to-south capacity-building and exchange of experience
    Recipients: Air Convention FICAP, international air pollution research and funding organizations

Recommendations from the parallel discussions

Attain good air quality in airsheds at risk

#1 Create air quality roadmaps for low-income countries
Equity should be improved significantly regarding exposure to poor air quality. The new WHO guidelines are mostly achievable for high-income countries. And even in high-income countries, air pollution levels are typically highest in the poorest neighbourhoods. In some low-income countries action should not be prevented due to the absence of data, where there are no-regret solutions. Priorities should be given to governance structure and mechanisms. Low-cost sensors may be a complementary tool for generating data.
Recipients: Air Convention EB, FICAP and TFH, National air pollution decision-makers
#2 Develop guidance documents on how to access finance and overcome implementation barriers for clean residential heating solutions
There is a need for affordable, accessible, decarbonized-ready residential heating solutions, notably in low-income households to achieve maximum climate and air quality benefits. Finance is generally the most important factor for replacing old heating systems with new.
Recipients: Development partners, i.e., IGOs and IFIs, Air Convention FICAP and TFTEI

Achieve policy-relevant understanding of air pollution effects on health

#3 Improve scientific rigour in the application and advancement of methods for environmental health studies and burden of disease estimations
Currently the proportion of low-quality studies and meta-analyses is high, but these methodological problems might go undetected unless thoroughly reviewed. The issue of low-quality published studies and evidence/systematic reviews needs therefore to be resolved through promoting good-quality science. The scientific community needs to promote high-quality studies and discourage publications which do not add to the weight of evidence. It is critically important to rigorously adhere to methods in designing, conducting and reporting of research and systematic reviews.
Another problem is the long-term delays in updating air pollution health data. To avoid this problem, a mechanism for rolling reviews of research on air pollution and health, and updates of health quantification methods, should be established and funded. Burden of disease estimation should also ensure usage of the most appropriate exposure-response function for that specific estimation.
Recipients: ISEE, ERS, et al. to develop guidance and communicate to editors of relevant scientific journals. WHO to lead regular reviews, with appropriate funding provided.

Fulfil Air Convention objectives

#4 Increase efforts to use the Gothenburg Protocol as an instrument for cleaner air
The Gothenburg Protocol Review clearly shows the progress in reducing air pollution in the UNECE region. However, not all Convention objectives are being met. For PM, the attainment of WHO AQ Guidelines everywhere will be a major challenge, which necessitates non-technical and structural measures. Actions to promote air pollution should inter alia aim to include: investments in abatement and long-term assistance programmes, improvements of emission inventories and projections, dedicated national air policy development including awareness raising in relation to gains for health and environment benefits, as well as co-benefits such as industrial competitiveness, and inclusion of air pollution into bi-/multilateral cooperation agreements.
Recipients: Air Convention parties, and non-parties
#5 Continue clarification efforts with respect to abatement and implementation barriers; develop a staged commitment approach
Barriers (political, financial/economic, institutional, regulatory, capacity, technical) to ratification continue to exist in establishing emission reduction commitments and implementing the large number of requirements of the Technical Annexes. Focus should include abatement and implementation, and a phased/staged commitment approach – understanding that countries are at different stages of implementation and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not work – should be explored in future discussions.
Recipients: Air Convention EB, Ratifying and non-ratifying parties to the Air Convention protocols

Transform nitrogen waste into nitro-resources and flourishing ecosystems

#6 Integrate changes in production and consumption of agricultural products, and in bioenergy use into future scenarios and negotiation support to the Air Convention
Among the options, the most appealing strategies to achieve the 50 per cent reduction in N waste (losses) by 2030 include a combination of technical actions in agriculture, change to dietary patterns to reduce meat and dairy intake (and overall protein) combined with food waste reduction. Correspondingly, such scenarios should be presented to decision-makers during forthcoming negotiations.
Recipients: Air Convention MSC-West, TFMM, CIAM, TFRN and Parties to the Air Convention
#7 Strengthen key indicators of damage to terrestrial biodiversity across the UNECE region to set critical loads and levels for nitrogen deposition and ammonia concentrations
Increasing ammonia concentrations in ambient air across Europe, emission reductions of nitrogen oxides, as well as increased pressure on biodiversity motivates further development and disaggregation key indicators to support the Air Convention objectives.
Recipients: Air Convention EB, and parties to the Air Convention

Integrate policies and research on air pollution, climate change and biodiversity

#8 Prioritize the protection and maintenance of nature types and areas still in good condition over restoring areas after damage has already occurred
Restoration of damaged ecosystems is not always possible. ‘Rewilding’ does not necessarily lead to the return of biodiversity equivalent to pre-damage levels. Measures to restore damaged ecosystems are often extremely expensive and there can be long time delays between initiation of restoration efforts and observations of positive impacts. Monitoring, modelling and mapping tools are available within the Air Convention to understand which emission sources are especially important for ecosystems at risk, and these sources should be prioritized for mitigation measures.
Recipients: Air Convention EB and WGE
#9 Increase the number of indicators used to show the impacts of air pollution on vegetation (crops and ecosystems)
The indicators currently used to describe air pollution effects are not fully in line with knowledge developed in recent scientific developments. Aspects currently lacking, and which need to be represented by appropriate indicators, include the contribution of methane to ozone impacts, the influence of nitrogen and ozone exposure on carbon sequestration in soils and biodiversity, as well as nitrogen use efficiency of agricultural and forest areas.
Recipients: Air Convention EB and WGE

Accomplish significant air quality improvements through international cooperation

#10 Streamline online resources
There are today a multitude of resources available on the internet. There is, however, a need for some sort of hub or common starting point for users. International cooperation on air pollution would benefit from a streamlining of online resources including air quality guidance documents, tools, scientific knowledge and available expertise. Further, the resources should be made user-friendly and translated to more languages.
Recipient: Air Convention FICAP, UNEP
#11 Develop frameworks for international cooperation within and between regional cooperation networks
There is a strong interest in regional cooperation between the UN/ECE region and regions on other continents. Many stakeholders express interest in learning from the experience of the Air Convention, including knowledge of failures and successes, as well as sector- or source-specific knowledge. International cooperation on air pollution could thus be expediated through the development of methodologies or frameworks for tailored regional cooperation on topics of concern. Sectoral approaches and best practices for integrating co-benefits with climate change when applicable are examples of topics that could be addressed. Improvements in data collection, exchange and quality assurance are important items on an agenda. Many air pollution problems are of a common nature, and are often transboundary within regions. Establishing standards and collaboration on air pollution control and legislation within certain sectors are areas that might benefit of intraregional collaboration, Topics of interest are forest fires, agricultural burning, residential cooking and heating, energy and motor vehicle standards. The framework should also consider arrangement of periodic webinars and utilization of other international and regional organizations and existing conferences. An important step could be to engage new communities (journalists, medical specialists, energy-, transportation-, & agriculture ministries and other international organizations).  
Recipients: Air Convention EB and FICAP, UNEP/CCAC, other international organizations