Supporters of clean air and public health got a boost in late February with the release of an important United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment. Release of the long-awaited “Summary for Decision Makers” draws key conclusions from the UNEP report, “The Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone.” The summary highlights the role of black carbon (BC) as a potent climate change forcer and the opportunity to have immediate positive effects on global climate change, as well as on public health, by reducing BC emissions from diesel pollution emitters including vehicles, equipment and stationary sources.
“We applaud the very timely release of the UNEP report,” said Rebecca Watts Hull, Director of Mothers & Others for Clean Air, based out of Atlanta, Ga. “Cleaning up diesel pollution is a win-win for health and climate, and right now Congress has the ability to fund the highly cost-effective Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), which was reauthorized with overwhelming bi-partisan support in the recent 2010 ‘lame duck’ session,” she said. “DERA has funded millions in Georgia diesel retrofit projects that reduce black carbon from dirty engines ranging from school buses to waste haulers.“
According to the Summary, significant black carbon mitigation can come from retrofitting diesel engines with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in on-road vehicles, off-road mobile sources and stationary sources, as well as by retiring high-emitting on- and off-road diesel vehicles. Policies incentivizing or mandating the use of DPFs are key to reducing harmful black carbon emissions.
“Atlanta is home to some of the busiest freight corridors in the nation, so cutting emissions of black carbon from diesel engines could yield significant public health benefits,” said Dr. Roby Greenwald, Assistant Research Professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “Black carbon particles are a significant component of Atlanta’s air pollution problem and have serious negative implications for both respiratory and cardiovascular health.”
“Reducing black carbon is good for children’s health, both short-term and long-term,” said Dr. Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, Vice-Chair of the Environmental Health Committee of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Reducing air pollution benefits children’s health immediately as well as in the future when we reduce climate forcers like black carbon. Children are more vulnerable to the health consequences of climate change, which include increased illnesses from air pollution, certain infectious diseases, and heat-related illnesses."
Click here to access the full UNEP report.