Nordic knowledge drives air policy

21.03.18 | News
Saltsjöbaden VI-workshop i Göteborg
Photographer
Heidi Orava
In the EU countries alone, air pollution is responsible for 400,000 premature deaths every year – the global figure is 6.5 million. The Nordic countries are among the main drivers in air policy. Our regional and international networks generate knowledge and expertise that inform global negotiations and decision-making processes.

The Nordic Region has well-established credentials in this area, having been a key driving force behind the UN Air Convention (the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution). According to Anna Engleryd, the convention chair, collaboration between the Nordic Council of Ministers’ experts and the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) countries has been important for the work on the convention in recent years.

“Nordic research has not only helped generate a knowledge base by establishing emissions inventories and work on model scenarios, both of which are important prerequisites for the EECCA countries’ ability to discuss air policy on an equal footing with the other parties to the convention,” says Engleryd, who was chair of the Sixth Saltsjöbaden Workshop for scientists and policy-makers in Gothenburg this week.

Mutual benefits

“We need to work together on issues to do with air quality. Joint problems require joint solutions. The Nordic countries benefit because ultimately, it means that fewer emissions reach our part of the world – and the target countries benefit from cleaner air as their national emissions are reduced and fewer of ours reach their territory due to joint agreements,” Anna Engleryd explains.

Katarina Yaramenka, project manager for the Nordic Council of Ministers’ clean air efforts in Russia and Belarus, says that Nordic co-operation has helped build capacity and refine methodologies in the EECCA countries. This in turn leads to greater faith in the results of modelling and improves the scientific basis for decision-making.

“We have seen examples where the knowledge generated by co-operation between Nordic and Belarusian experts has directly influenced policy – this is highly encouraging, and we hope to see more of it,” she says.

Mainstreaming air policy

Karolina Skog, the Swedish environment minister and chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate in 2018, is calling for more attention to be paid to air pollution issues.

“It needs to be repeated time after time: 6.5 million premature deaths per annum are more than those caused by malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and war combined. Much has been done already, but we need more action, integration and coordination in order to ensure that air pollution becomes a core component of health and development policy,” she says.

Making big and difficult decisions benefits everybody. Sometimes industry gets the short straw, sometimes consumers. The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten, stresses the importance of a solid knowledge base when it comes to making unpopular decisions.

“I am a believer. Whenever research-based knowledge is available on which to make decisions, both the politicians and the people are more willing to make sacrifices to achieve better air quality,” he says.

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