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Revision of Gothenburg Protocol under the UNECE Air Convention will strengthen efforts to reduce air pollution across the region

Air pollution_Revision of Gothenburg Protocol

In a ground-breaking decision in December 2023, Parties to the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Air Convention) agreed to revise the Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone, as amended in 2012 (Gothenburg Protocol), which is expected to further strengthen efforts to reduce air pollution in Europe and North America.  

Delegations convened last week (27-31 May 2024) at the 62nd session of the Working Group on Strategies and Review to start policy discussions on the revision process. The Working Group discussed a draft plan for the revision of the Gothenburg Protocol, including ongoing and required activities and the prioritization of activities and decisions. 

The revision process will include the following issues, among others: new emission reduction commitments for the pollutants currently covered by the Gothenburg  Protocol; potential revisions of technical annexes including with regard to their level of ambition and scope; how to deliver further reductions of black carbon emissions; whether and how to address methane emissions; how to achieve additional ammonia emission reductions; new flexibilities, and other approaches for non-Parties to facilitate ratification and subsequent implementation of the Protocol; overarching, collective risk-based target(s) to reduce risk to health and ecosystems in the region; and how to achieve integrated approaches among climate, energy and air policies.  

To kick-start discussions at the Working Group meeting, experts presented updated scenarios, which aim at a 50% reduction of air quality-related health impacts and showed an initial assessment of the feasibility of achieving a similar reduction in threats to biodiversity. These scenarios are intended to further support the policy-making process, specifically as it relates to overarching, collective risk-based target(s) to reduce risk to health and ecosystems in the region.  

In addition, the Working Group also discussed how to achieve emission reductions. While technical measures will remain part of the solution to reduce emissions, non-technical and structural measures, including behavioural change (e.g. dietary changes), and synergies with other policy fields will also be needed. Therefore, the Working Group discussed non-technical and structural measures, which include a complex mix of policy instruments, such as pricing, research investments, infrastructural planning and awareness raising. While structural and non-technical measures can bring a lot of benefits, as they will likely have larger synergetic reduction potentials, taking into account developments in other policy areas, there are also some challenges. These concern, e.g. the actual application and the cost of certain measures related to behavioural changes, which are not easily predictable and hence difficult to include into decision support. 

Parties to the Convention will convene in the framework of the 44th meeting of the Executive Body (9-12 December 2024) to take the next steps in the process. 

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