Is Climate Change The Same As Air Pollution?

The sun breaking through
Copyright Environmental Protection Agency

Climate change is a major threat to the health of our planet. Air pollution is closely linked but they are usually treated as separate problems. Rising levels of C02 and other air-polluting gases increase the greenhouse effect, which in turn raises temperatures and affects global weather patterns. So, while climate change and air pollution are not the same issue per se, there are strong linkages and synergies between the two areas.

The Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations agreed a Convention to tackle the problem. Later this was strengthened by the Kyoto Protocol, when developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) by 5.2% below the 1990 level. The Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

During the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020; however, the composition of Parties in the second commitment period is different from the first. More information can be found here.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland undertook to limit its emissions to an annual average of 62.8 million tonnes (13% above the 1990 levels) over the period 2008-2012. It is estimated that Ireland will meet its Kyoto Protocol target through the use of Kyoto Protocol credits already purchased by the State and use of unused allowances in the New Entrant Set Aside under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EPA, 2014).

Current EU directives after the Paris agreement in 2015 recommend a reduction in emissions of 40% by 2030. 

The graph below shows Ireland's distance to our Kyoto target.

GHG Emissions

Ireland's Distance to its GHG Kyoto Target.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Kyoto Protocol Limit (EPA, 2014).

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