With a fledgling air quality monitoring system and a rising death toll related to pollution, now African scientists have embarked on a research assessment to save the continent from more air-borne troubles in future.
Through the Africa Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change programme expected to end later this year, the scientists will give recommendations for an action plan to reduce harmful emissions.
This will in turn inform top decision-makers within governments on how to achieve key development goals in agriculture, conservation, clean air for healthy life, and the fight against global climate change.
The initiative, the first of its kind in Africa, focuses on short-lived climate pollutants, whose lifespan in the atmosphere is a few days to less than a decade.
These pollutants also contribute to warming the atmosphere, thus their reduction will doubly play a part in slowing the rate of global warming.
Lack of data
The project is by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, African Union Commission, UN Environment Programme and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
"A significant burden of air pollution-related deaths occurs in Africa. Yet, we lack accurate and timely information, which hinders progress for mitigation. To fill this gap, we need to create awareness among policymakers on the importance of monitoring air pollution in Africa and in assessing the impacts," said Dr Juliette Koudenoukpo, director and regional representative Unep Africa Office.
"So far, significant progress has been made through this Africa assessment, reaching out to stakeholders and embedding the assessment process in the region."
The two major issues for African countries are lack of data on the emissions causing air pollution and climate change, and inadequate capacity for enforcing and enabling compliance on pollution management policies, regulations and standards.
Scientists aim to fill these gaps and increase local knowledge and institutional capacity for governments to integrate and implement air pollution and climate change policies in national development plans in an integrated manner.
"The assessment will determine how development in Africa can proceed while limiting air and other forms of pollution," said Dr Philip Osano, Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre Director.