This note discusses the linkages between climate change and air quality policies and how can measures that consider a price to carbon address both together with the best results.

Key Messages

  • Air pollution is one of the world’s main causes of mortality and disproportionately affects vulnerable population groups.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels contributes to both local air pollution and global climate change. In many cases (but not in all), climate change and air pollution share common sources.
  • Carbon pricing initiatives (such as carbon taxes, emission trading systems and removal of fossil fuel subsidies), if designed well, disincentivize consumption of fossil fuels. These policies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollutants simultaneously.
  • Policymakers should consider linkages between climate and air pollution policies to maximize synergies while minimizing unintended consequences. For example, policies should cover all emissions and sectors. This would prevent a rise in air pollution caused by increased chemical reactions in polluted areas due to policies that reduce some pollutants and not others.
  • Policy packages that have climate and air quality benefits combine short-term, local results with longer-term climate benefits. In fact, the benefits of improved air quality often outweigh climate policy costs. The packages need to be designed with a holistic approach that considers the various pollutants and the potential unintended consequences of specific design choices.
  • The combination of climate and air quality benefits, if communicated effectively, can be used to build strong and diverse advocacy coalitions and increase political acceptance. 
  • Collaboration between and across all governance levels and all relevant research disciplines (such as economics, chemistry, and engineering) are needed to increase the understanding and maximize the air pollution benefits of carbon pricing.

The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) includes governments, businesses and civil society groups working together to identify and address the key challenges to successful use of carbon pricing as a way to combat climate change. As a strategic partner of CPLC, Climate Strategies works with other partners towards the long-term objective of a carbon price applied throughout the global economy.