Colombia, one of the latest countries to join BreatheLife efforts to cut global deaths from air pollution by half by 2030, is no stranger to action curbing air pollution.
Since the 1970s, the country has put in place and built on air quality and pollution monitoring and regulations to mitigate the threat hovering over its growing cities.
Its latest efforts include new national ambient air quality standards, a new policy document that seeks to improve air quality, and new guidelines on the environmental and energy benefits of soot-free buses in the country.
Launched in November 2017, the new ambient air quality standards establish actions up to 2030 that must be taken to reach good air quality to protect the health of Colombia’s citizens, and were the result of extensive discussions with different local environmental authorities, ministries, international experts, citizens, members of the academy and industry representatives.
The second, the “Policy for the improvement of air quality” (CONPES) seeks to prevent and control air pollution with actions that improve air quality management around the country. It includes:
• a statement of national strategies to renew vehicles and bring them up-to-date, and to introduce vehicle technologies with zero to low emissions;
• an increase in the fuel quality to Euro VI standards;
• the compulsion to implement best available environmental techniques in industries with high emissions.
The main sources in Colombia of particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are transport and industry– but an emissions inventory developed in Colombia’s main cities found that transport was responsible for more than 80 per cent of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5).
That’s where the third action comes in. The guidelines assessing the environmental and energy benefits of soot-free buses in Colombia by the Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry presents important information on the air pollution problem, emissions from transport sector, available technological options and cost-benefit analysis for the introduction and use of new technologies.
Using the guidelines, Bogota estimated savings of US$3.7 billion in fuel costs, the prevention of 3,455 premature deaths associated with bad air quality, and the mitigation of 15.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
They support the Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry’s strategic moves is to promote sustainable mobility through the vehicles substitution with cleaner technologies in public transportation and demonstrate the benefits of such a switch.
According to the Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry data for 2014, it has been estimated that ground public transportation in Colombia emits around 3,745 tons of black carbon and 8,398 tons of PM2.5.
The National Planning Department (DNP) estimated that costs associated with urban air pollution in Colombia figured in COP $15,4 trillion (or nearly 2 per cent of GDP 2015) and caused over 10,500 deaths.
Air pollutants concentration in some regions and urban areas in the country exceed the levels established by national regulation and the World Health Organization or are on an upward trend, which are a cause of concern.
In order to make progress in the air pollution diagnosis and solution (which includes emissions calculation, air quality monitoring, information outreach, and strengthening of air quality management in cities and regions), workshops with the main regions have been developed. Among these regions can be found: Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra, Cali, Barranquilla, Manizales and Bogota.
Some aims of the workshops are:
- the strengthening of the technical, administrative and operative capacity of the local environmental authorities,
- improve the investment project formulation in air quality
- improve access and outreach of information for the decision making
- promote the interaction among local and national authorities
These recent initiatives integrated with initiatives and plans already in place, including supporting and promoting energy efficiency in industry in key sectors, adopting the National Plan for the Mitigation of Short-lived Climate Pollutants (Plan Nacional para la Mitigación de Contaminantes Climáticos de Vida Corta)
“The concentrations of some pollutants in the atmosphere are above the standards set in environmental regulations, which highlight the need keep promoting the management of air quality to protect the health of the population and the environment,” said Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Carlos Alberto Botero López.
Colombia acts on air pollution as a member of relevant international organizations for the transfer of knowledge, investment and exchange of experiences on topics related to soot-free buses, regulations for off-road machinery and electric mobility, among others.
Its efforts are ongoing in the context of the Intergovernmental Air Quality Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Coalition for Climate and Clean Air, the Electric Mobility Strategy for Latin America (la Estrategia de Movilidad Eléctrica para América Latina MOVE), among others.
They are also necessary for compliance with the National Air Quality Standard, the global sustainable development agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as the recommendation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for Colombia’s entry into the Organization.
Colombia comes to the BreatheLife campaign with new policies that add definition and power to a nearly 50-year journey towards clean air.