Les queremos compartir las palabras de Luis Bertrán, secretario general de la International Gas Union, IGU, en la parte inicial del side event de la COP25 llamado: “Addressing Urban Air Quality: An Urgent Environmental Issue”organizado por @AGN_Chile e @IGU_News.
Dear colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us here this morning for what promises to be a great discussion.
I would also like to extend a special thanks to our host, the delegation of this year’s COP presidency – Chile. As the most important global climate event is drawing to an end, we are very grateful for your hospitality and the ability to conduct this very important session about a topic that impacts us all.
Today, we will talk about breathing. Something that should be a basic human right. In fact, earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights made a case for the right to breath clean air, because it is directly linked to the right to life and the right to health.
Yet, 9 out 10 people worldwide breath polluted air, that does not meet the WHO guidelines.
As most of you can probably guess, this burden is not distributed evenly, and the most vulnerable populations tend to suffer the worst of it. That means those who are poor, sick, elderly, and children.
Why do we speak about pollution at a climate conference?
Like climate change, Air Pollution is an urgent and dangerous environmental problem. But, while climate change is a process that requires mitigation to prevent the worst outcome, air pollution is already persistent and real today, and its worst outcomes are too.
It is already killing some 7 million people every year. Over half a million of those are children, under the age of 5.
Luckily, the mitigation measures for both problems are complementary, and in most cases, solutions are overlapping. Same as with climate change, the energy and transport sectors are major culprits, and replacing dirty fuels is a way to achieving climate and air benefits.
Same as with climate change and getting GHG emissions down, the situation has been tough to date, and what is troubling is that according to the most recent update from World Health Organisation, there has not been much improvement in average global air quality conditions. Like with carbon emissions, the pollution problem has been complicated by the continued growth in urban populations and growing energy demands to fuel economic and industrial development.
While some regions are winning in their fight for clean air, others are getting worse, especially those that are developing. As we know, development requires a lot of energy, and without proper regulatory and policy structures, or infrastructure, the most highly polluting fuels take the stage, because of their low direct cost.
But today we are here to discuss solutions. Solutions that are effective, practical, and often immediate. The great thing about these solutions is that they allow to help addressing both, air quality and climate change.
Those of you who have made their ways around the pavilions here and followed some of the other discussions, already heard that air quality and climate are related, and neither can be ignored. You have heard about the critical importance of ensuring that while the global community works to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement, it must also look after meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
What you may not have heard a lot in that context is…. that Natural Gas offers an immediate, effective, and economical solution to clean up dirty air, both outdoor and indoor. While at the same time helping to drive down carbon emissions.
To get a bit technical, natural gas does not contain any sulphur – the main precursor of particulate matter, and it also allows to significantly reduce Nitrogen Oxides emissions, and many other harmful metals and toxins that result from combustion of coal and diesel.
Natural gas also helps to reduce CO2 emissions, compared to other fossil fuels. Furthermore, with the help of new technologies, including carbon capture and storage and decarbonized gases, it can be practically carbon free.
I would like to conclude with a bit of food for thought.
We at the IGU always stress that when it comes to solving complex environmental challenges to deliver a sustainable energy future, the global community cannot hope to find a silver bullet. We firmly believe that meeting Paris and Sustainable Development goals will require a host of solutions and a new era of energy technology and innovation, with outcome-driven policies and a public-private-NGO collaboration like never before.
But allow me to confuse you here a little by saying that when it comes to urban air quality, in many cases, a fuel switch to natural gas is as close to finding a silver bullet, as we can get.
Of course, there are many conditions that must be in place for that to happen, including access to infrastructure, efficient technologies, and prudent regulations. But the bottom line is that – in those instances where renewables are not a possible option yet – when we switch from polluting fuels to natural gas, we immediately get clean air, by eliminating pollution at the source.
I know this because there is evidence proving it, and to showcase this evidence, the IGU started its Urban Air Quality report series, the fourth edition of which was just released and is available in here today, as well as for download on our portal at igu.org.
Some of these cases will be presented by our panelists today.