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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Post-2015 Consensus: Air Pollution Viewpoint, Stepping

Viewpoint Paper

Bjorn Larsen’s paper helpfully points out the costs and benefits of pursuing either outdoor or indoor air pollution targets in the post-2015 development agenda. Yet, it is relatively silent about the recommendations and overall conclusion about air pollution targets in the new development agenda that follow from the cost-benefit analyses.

Given the community effects, it does not seem sensible to have separate goals for indoor and outdoor air quality. Rather, the overall air quality goal needs to be pursued by dealing with the different sources of pollution. Also, the targets for air quality can be the same for urban and rural areas, but the means to reach those targets are likely to be different, given the diverse sources of pollution. 

As for setting targets, it seems more effective to tackle the causes of air pollution (pollution sources) rather than the symptoms (measures of air quality); this should be reflected in the target. Post-2015 goals should also be universal, which means there should be different air pollution targets for countries at different stages of development. Also, although a separate target for air pollution reflects the political importance and promotes accountability, other targets such as universal access to clean energy may achieve the same goal.