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Application of SDGs to Air Pollution

In The Atmospheric Pollution, Climate Change Nexus in Asia: Implications for a New Development Agenda

1. Although many criticized the SDGs for having too many goals and lacking prioritization, unfortunately, air pollution was one issue which was deemphasized.
2. Air pollution’s position in SDGs is cloudy. In the SDGs, there is no headline goal on air pollution. Air pollution is specifically mentioned in 2 targets, under health (SDG3) and cities (SDG11), but shares these targets with other issues. Air pollution is mentioned directly in one corresponding target, and indirectly in another. Air pollution is also directly mentioned in 2 proposed indicators relating to these targets.
3. In principle, air pollution can be indirectly related to other targets specified under the goals for Water (6) in terms of improved water quality and restoration of water related ecosystems, Industry (9) in terms of environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, Cities (11) in terms of sustainable transport systems, Climate (13) in terms of integrating climate change measures into national policies, and Land (15) in terms of restoring sustainable use of ecosystems. In particular, land and ecosystems could be related to acid rain, and climate could be related to co-benefits. However, air pollution is not mentioned specifically.
4. This presentation showed a functional view of SDGs which illustrates the air pollution gaps in the SDGs. Three goals relate to ecosystems – Climate (13), Oceans (14), and Land (15) – and the air environment is clearly an ecosystem, of which climate is actually a subset. Several goal areas relate to the economy; economic activity is not only a major cause of air pollution, but air pollution also hurts economic activity. Several goals are related to social objectives, particularly Health (3); air pollution hurts health and well-being, while air pollution is a cause of human activity. Governance (16) and Education (4) can be solutions to air pollution problems. Air pollution is specifically mentioned in the Cities Goal (11) but this ignores transboundary and rural air pollution.
5. A broad perspective illustrates that air pollution is linked in principle to most of the SDGs, either in terms of causes (energy, industry, transport), the measurement of air pollution itself, and impacts such as damages to ecosystems and health.
6. While the SDGs are already decided, the implementation process is still being developed. There may still be time to influence the indicator development process. There are still some possibilities to incorporate or highlight pollution by considering possible special segments on the HLPF, perhaps as a cross cutting issue. National and local governments are only just beginning to think about SDGs, and some of them may want to give more priority to air pollution.
7. The air pollution community may consider closer linkage between its cooperation mechanisms and SDGs. This could be done either through concrete cooperation between air pollution and SDG frameworks, or through unilateral analysis and efforts.