Co-benefits of black carbon mitigation for climate and air quality

Mitigation of black carbon (BC) aerosol emissions can potentially contribute to both reducing air pollution and climate change, although mixed results have been reported regarding the latter. A detailed quantification of the synergy between global air quality and climate policy is still lacking. This study contributes with an integrated assessment model-based scenario analysis of BC-focused mitigation strategies aimed at maximizing air quality and climate benefits. The impacts of these policy strategies have been examined under different socio-economic conditions, climate ambitions, and BC mitigation strategies.

The study finds that measures targeting BC emissions (including reduction of co-emitted organic carbon, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxides) result in significant decline in premature mortality due to ambient air pollution, in the order of 4 to 12 million avoided deaths between 2015 and 2030. Under certain circumstances, BC mitigation can also reduce climate change, i.e., mainly by lowering BC emissions in the residential sector and in high BC emission scenarios.

Still, the effect of BC mitigation on global mean temperature is found to be modest at best (with a maximum short-term GMT decrease of 0.02 °C in 2030) and could even lead to warming (with a maximum increase of 0.05 °C in case of a health-focused strategy, where all aerosols are strongly reduced).

At the same time, strong climate policy would improve air quality (the opposite relation) through reduced fossil fuel use, leading to an estimated 2 to 5 million avoided deaths in the period up to2030. By combining both air quality and climate goals, net health benefits can be maximized.


PBL Authors
Mathijs Harmsen Detlef van Vuuren Maarten van den Berg
Other authors
Pim van Dorst
Rita Van Dingenen
Zbigniew Klimont


Publication title
Co-benefits of black carbon mitigation for climate and air quality
Publication date
28 July 2020
Publication type
Publication language
Climatic Change
Product number