New briefing uncovers "triple-win" economic, climate and health opportunities of reducing black carbon

Reading time: 5 minutes
19 September 2015

NEW YORK: Reducing black carbon - the second biggest pollutant contributing to climate change after carbon dioxide - brings ample economic, health and climate opportunities if businesses and governments work together, according to leadership organizations BSR and The Climate Group in a new joint briefing.

Earlier this year The Climate Group released a briefing paper underscoring the links between climate change and human health. In this follow up Insight Briefing released two days before Climate Week NYC, we join forces with BSR to zero in on one of the most critical climate-related threats to people’s health: black carbon.

Emitted during fuel combustion and second only to carbon dioxide in heating our planet, the impact of black carbon is worst in big cities. This is especially the case in developing countries, where more than 90% of air pollution derives from transportation. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 million premature deaths resulted from outdoor air pollution in 2014.

Helena Molin Valdes, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, hosted by the United Nations Environment Program, writes in the briefing’s foreword: “Despite the importance of this issue, black carbon has largely been ignored in the major international climate discussions – although the public sector is beginning to increase the demand for solutions.”

Beyond stemming the dangers of black carbon, there are also economic opportunities for businesses and governments who collaborate to reduce the pollutant.

In Europe, the economic cost of deaths from air pollution is more than US$1.4 trillion, which amounts to almost 2% of the global economy. For the entire OECD region, this figure is estimated to be US$3.5 trillion. Black carbon accounts for about half of these impacts.

Helena Molin Valdes says tackling black carbon delivers a "triple win", because "it’s good for business, through the creation of new markets and innovation; good for climate, because many measures to reduce climate pollutants like black carbon, methane or HFCs, also helps reduce carbon dioxide; and it’s good for the health and quality of life of people."

Because transport is primarily responsible for global outdoor air pollution, decarbonizing the transportation industry is the single most important actor in reducing the climate, health and economic impacts of black carbon.

Emilie Prattico, Manager, Partnership Development and Research, BSR, authored the briefing. She says: “As a priority, governments and businesses alike must integrate health concerns into climate policies and low carbon business plans, and act urgently to reduce black carbon. In particular, there is a huge opportunity to transform the high-emitting transport sector by developing innovative low-emission transport solutions.

“By acting now, the public and private sectors can work together to bring manifold benefits to the climate, human health and the global economy.”

Transport was also identified in a separate briefing released yesterday by Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, about future energy trends. Drawing on discussions with the world's foremost energy thought leaders, he writes: "The positive trend toward lower carbon transportation is expected to continue, provided the right infrastructure for electric mobility is put in place, technological restrictions for batteries and hydrogen are better addressed, and where necessary the public have access to incentives or tax break schemes."

On the human health impacts of a changing climate, Mark Kenber tells us: “There are two concrete links between climate action and health. One, reducing climate change also reduces the impacts on people’s livelihood like heat, flooding, crops, nutrition and so on. But also many of the solutions for climate change, if well designed, will have direct health benefits by reducing indoor and outdoor pollution through cleaner energy sources. One important example is solar powered LED lights, which families in rural regions of India are using instead of dangerous kerosene through our Bijli project.”

The Climate Group’s access to rural energy in India project, Bijli - Clean Energy for All, which is principally funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, has provided access to over 60,000 people over the past two years in the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in India to clean, affordable solar power.

BSR and The Climate Group are both founding partners of We Mean Business.


BSR is a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world. From its offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration.


We Mean Business is a powerful coalition of world-leading business and climate organizations, which have joined forces – for the first time – to create a unified business voice in support of decisive action to tackle climate change and transition to a low carbon future.

Founding partners are BSR, the B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which together represent thousands of top companies and investors.



The Climate Group's digital countdown to Climate Week NYC 2015 runs from September 1-20.

Each day we are releasing exclusive conversations with key figures from the worlds of business and politics and beyond – through video, social media and blogs – as well as expert briefings. Follow @ClimateGroup for the latest.

See the full gallery of #CWNYC graphics and tweets to join the countdown, by clicking below.


Climate Week NYC is a key event in the international calendar that brings together leading governments, investors, businesses, innovators and opinion formers. The Climate Group launched Climate Week NYC in 2009, and has acted as the secretariat since its inception.

Host to more than 100 affiliate events from September 21-28, Climate Week NYC 2015 is the collaborative space for climate events in support of the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Climate Week NYC 2015 is supported by BT Group, Siemens, Procter & Gamble, Nike, SkyPower, SolarCity, CBRE Group, and Bank of the West - BNP Paribas; and the We Mean Business coalition members: BSR, The B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD. | @ClimateWeekNYC | #CWNYC

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon