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Air Pollution
and Climate

Air Pollution
and Climate

Photo by Jitendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD

Human activities affect the atmosphere at a range of scales, from open cooking fires polluting indoor spaces, to the global increase in greenhouse gases. The causes and solutions of both air pollution and climate change are closely inter-connected. Addressing both requires an integrated transdisciplinary perspective, science-based policymaking, as well as economic and technological changes. Through my work at ICIMOD and various advisory roles, I have been pushing for solutions from local to global scales.

Relevant Experiences

  • Working with UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in 2020-21, I produced a policy brief summarizing current knowledge about glacier melting and other impacts of climate change in the Asia-Pacific, and discussing necessary adaptation and mitigation measures. This was subsequently adapted into a chapter in a book, published in 2022, about resetting development policy and institutions in the Asia-Pacific.

  • From 2012 to 2020 I represented ICIMOD on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), hosted by UN Environment in Paris, France. From 2015-2020, I served on the CCAC’s Steering Committee, strengthening the coalition’s planning, governance, and key role in promoting easily available solutions to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants that would both improve air quality and reduce climate change. I also served in leadership roles in the CCAC’s initiatives on bricks, on urban health, on regional assessments and on agriculture, andI attended CCAC events and meetings in Santiago, San Francisco, Washington, Paris, Geneva, Bern, Oslo, Warsaw, Katowice, Nairobi, Colombo, Bangkok, Kuching, and Busan. In 2015 and 2018 I hosted CCAC meetings in Nepal, drawing attention of delegates to mountain-specific issues.

  • I served as a lead author on the CCAC initiated Asia regional assessment report, Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-Based Solutions, which calculated the benefits to climate mitigation of improving air quality in Asia and the Pacific. At the Advisory Group of the Asia Co-Benefits Partnership (ACP) hosted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Hayama, Japan from 2016 to 2020, I provided inputs on ACP publications, work plans and long-term objectives to improve the achievement of climate, environment and economic co-benefits of climate mitigation in Asia.

  • I have also served as an Expert Group Member on Air Quality Governance and Assessment for Clean Air Asia in Pasig City, Philippines in 2016; as a Program Committee Member for the 17th IUAPPA World Clean Air Congress & 9th CAA Better Air Quality Conference held in August 2016 in Busan, Korea; as a Scientific Adviser to WHO’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, Geneva, Switzerland in 2018. I also served as Working Group Member of the Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership, hosted by United National Environment’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.

Photo by Subasana Shrestha

  • At the Government of Nepal, I have been serving the National Planning Commission as a Senior Expert/Advisor since September 2021. I helped with preparations for Nepal’s participation at COP26 and have participated in discussions about infrastructure priorities and green, resilient and inclusive development.

Photo credit: Nepal Economic Forum

  • From 2019 to 2021 I served Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an Expert Working Group Member in preparation of the high-level Sagarmatha Sambaad. I helped rewrite the introductory narrative, design sessions and recommend invitees for the high-level international meeting on “Climate Change, Mountains, and the Future of Humanity” that the Government of Nepal was preparing to host.

  • More locally, I served as a Steering Committee member of the Urban Health Initiative, hosted jointly by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in 2018-2019, and as an expert on a National Planning Commission taskforce hosted by Dr. Prabhu Budhathoki to recommend quick measures to reduce air pollution in Kathmandu in 2017. In 2015-2016 I chaired a five-member committee at the Department of Environment that designed a 56 station air pollution monitoring network for Nepal to be rolled out over the course of a decade. In 2008-2009 I participated in multiple advisory meetings with Hon. Ganesh Shah, Minister of Environment, Science, and Technology about air pollution policy and climate change research in Nepal.

Photo by Arnico Panday

  • Working with colleagues at ICIMOD and Clean Energy Nepal, I organized a Mayor’s Summit on Air Pollution in 2018, bringing together mayors of 17 Kathmandu Valley municipalities with the Ambassador of Mexico to discuss lessons from Mexico City to create effective inter-municipal cooperation to address air pollution.

  • At ICIMOD my team coordinated the preparation of design manuals and then piloted and scaled up improved brick kilns in Nepal, and elsewhere in South Asia, thereby reducing emissions of black carbon, particulate matter and carbon dioxide, while reducing coal combustion, saving money, and improving worker conditions. We also carried out studies to understand the conditions had led to increases in agricultural burning in Southern Nepal and hosted a conference with the CCAC’s Agriculture initiative to discuss mitigation measure. Partnering with the Clean Cooking Alliance, we worked on the promotion of clean cooking solutions and reducing indoor air pollution.

Photo by Arnico Panday

  • Earlier, as a student and postdoc, I worked on research questions that were driven by policy: At my first postdoctoral position at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, I set up and ran the MM5 and CMAQ atmospheric models to test the integration of air quality forecasts into a time-differentiated emissions trading system, as part of an interdisciplinary team studying air pollution policy options for the northeastern United States. Before that, in my doctoral research, I sought to understand the factors that control the accumulation and ventilation of air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley in order to provide a scientific basis upon which air pollution reduction programs could be designed. The un-answered questions from the doctoral research led to my collaboration, several years later, in the design of the SusKat research project.

Relevant Publications

Relevant Seminars / Lectures / Talks

  • US Embassy Kathmandu, Virtual presentation to staff from US Embassies in South Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal, 10 March 2021. “Climate Change in South Asia and its connection to air pollution”

  • IME Nepal Literature Festival, Panel presentation on climate change with Ramesh Bhushal, Shilshila Archaya and Maheshwar Dhakal, Pokhara, Nepal, 31 December 2020.

  • Kantipur Conclave, Panel discussion on “Mitigating Climate Change, the big connector” with Bindu Bhandari, Manjeet Dhakal and Sneha Pandey, Kathmandu, Nepal, 8 February 2020.

  • Inter-Parliamentary Union 4th South Asia Speakers’ Summit on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals, Virtual presentation, Male, Maldives, 2 September 2019, “One Atmosphere: Climate change, air pollution and health in South Asia”

  • British Embassy Kathmandu, Presentation to Embassy and DFID staff, Kathmandu, Nepal, 31 May 2019, “Air pollution in the HKH: Regional issues, sources, solutions”

  • UN Science Policy Business Forum, Panel Presentation, Nairobi, Kenya, 10 March 2019, “The Hindukush Himalaya Assessment”

  • World Health Organisation, Overview presentation at Urban Health Initiative Workshop. Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 February 2019. “Air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley: Levels, sources, trends and key stakeholders in AQM”

  • UNFCCC COP24, International Mountain Day presentation, Katowice, Poland, 11 December 2018. “Report Launch: Outlook on climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya”

  • GIZ India. Presentation at NCAP Roundtable, New Delhi, India, 26 November 2018. ”Mexico City, Kathmandu, and the sharing of air quality management experiences with and within South Asia”

Photo credit: GIZ India
  • Office of the President, Presentation to the President of Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal, 21 November 2018. ”Preparation for COP24: Air Pollution – Climate Change Linkages & Results of Recent Assessments”

  • Better Air Quality Conference, Oral Presentation, Kuching, Malaysia, 16 November 2018. ”Air Pollution in South Asia: Issues and Solutions”

  • Mayors’ Summit on Air Pollution, Presentation to the mayors of the Kathmandu Valley, Lalitpur, Nepal, 25 October 2018. “What do we know from science about air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley?”

  • Government of Nepal Environment Convention 2075, Plenary Presentation, Kathmandu, Nepal, 7 October 2018. ”वायु प्रदुषण तथा न्यूनीकरण (Air Pollution and its mitigation)”

  • Kathmandu University / IIDS , Seminar on Nepal’s Policy Regime and Priorities in the Context of Federalism, Dhulikhel, Nepal, 2 September 2018. ”One Atmosphere: Addressing air pollution, climate change and associated challenges”

  • World Health Organization, Presentation at Urban Health Initiative Data Workshop, Dhulikhel, Nepal, 8 August 2018. “Air pollution and its sources in the Kathmandu Valley”

  • Global Affairs Canada, Invited Seminar, Ottawa, Canada, 23 April 2018. “Atmosphere & Climate over the Hindu Kush Himalaya”

  • COMSATS University, Seminar, Islamabad, Pakistan, 2 March 2018. “One Atmosphere: Towards a Regional View of Air Pollution and Climate Change in South Asia”

  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Presentation to the Steering Committee, Nagarkot, Nepal, 19 February 2018.Update on the Air Pollution Solutions Report for Asia Pacific”

  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, State Key Laboratory for Cryospheric Sciences, Invited Lecture. Lanzhou, China, 19 January 2018. “Towards Clean Air over the Hindukush Himalaya”

  • International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Workshop and Science-Policy Dialogue on Air Pollution, Lalitpur, Nepal, 27 November 2017, “Air Pollution, Climate and Health in Southern Asia and the HKH”

  • 10th South Asia Economic Summit¸ Invited Presentation, Kathmandu, Nepal, 15 November 2017, “One Atmosphere: Regional Cooperation to Address Air Pollution and Climate Change in South Asia”

  • World Health Organisation, Urban Health Initiative Inception Workshop, Lalitpur, Nepal, 21 August 2017.  “Overview of air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley”

  • Norwegian Embassy, invited presentation, Lalitpur, Nepal, 9 March 2017.  “Air Pollution in the Kathmandu Valley: What do we know and what can we do?”

  • Government of Nepal, Department of Environment, Taskforce preparation presentation, Lalitpur, Nepal, 30 January 2017. “Air Pollution in the Kathmandu Valley: What can we learn from elsewhere? What do we know?”

  • UNESCO, presentation at brainstorming meeting on air pollution, Lalitpur, Nepal, 28 November 2016, “Air Pollution in the Kathmandu Valley”

  • 17th IUAPPA World Clean Air Congress & 9th CAA Better Air Quality Conference, Panel Presentation, Busan, Republic of Korea, 2 September 2016, “Cleaner brick kilns after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal”

  • 17th IUAPPA World Clean Air Congress & 9th CAA Better Air Quality Conference, Session Chair’s Opening Presentation, Busan, Republic of Korea, 29 August 2016, “Managing Air Quality in Mountainous Cities: Opportunities & Challenges”

  • Asia Co-Benefits Partnership Advisory Group Meeting Presentation, Yokohama, Japan, 12 July 2016, ”Co-Benefits at ICIMOD’s Atmosphere Initiative”

  • CNI Nepal Nirman, Panel on Environment and Possibilities of Alternative Development, Kathmandu, Nepal, 24 June 2016, ”Air Pollution: Challenges & Solutions”

  • German Embassy. Ambassador’s Round Table.  Kathmandu, Nepal, 23 February 2016.  “Air Pollution in Nepal: Solutions”

  • Harvard Alumni Association, Monthly Nepal Alumni Gathering.  Kathmandu, Nepal, 10 February 2016.  “Addressing local and regional air pollution in Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities”

  • Nepal Health Research Council, Dissemination Workshop Presentation. Kathmandu, Nepal, 9 October, 2015.  “Designing the Kathmandu Valley’s Air Pollution Monitoring Network”

  • Government of Nepal, Department of Environment, Invited Presentation, Lalitpur, Nepal, 23 September 2015.  “Designing Nepal’s Air Pollution Monitoring Network”

  • Conference on Mitigating Emissions from Open Agricultural Burning, Invited Speaker, Godavari, Nepal, 20 February 2015.  “Small Fires in the Hindukush Himalaya Region”

  • Better Air Quality Conference, Presentation at Urban Health Session.  Colombo, Sri Lanka, 20 November 2014.  “Towards a plan to reduce SLCPs in Kathmandu, Nepal”

  • UNEP and CCAC, High Level Sub-regional Consultation on Advancing Action on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) in Southeast and Northeast Asia, Opening Session Presentation, Bangkok, Thailand, 19 August 2014. “Challenge and Opportunity for SLCP mitigation action in Southeast and Northeast Asia”

  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition Brick Initiative Meeting, Presentation on behalf of ICIMOD. Paris, France, 1 April 2014.  “Brick Initiative: Regional Activities in Asia”

  • Nepal Arts Council Climate+Change Exhibit. Public Lecture. Kathmandu, Nepal, 8 January 2014.  “Air Pollution in the Kathmandu Valley: Issues and Challenges”

  • FHI360, Invited Seminar. Kathmandu, Nepal, 8 October 2013. “Improving health while mitigating climate change: The importance of controlling air pollutants”

  • CCAC Regional Intergovernmental Consultation, Invited Speaker.  Bangkok, Thailand, 4 February 2013.  “Overview of various mitigation options and reduction potential in Asia and the Pacific:  Black Carbon”

  • Science-Policy Seminar co-hosted by MoEST, IASS & ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal, 22 November, 2012. “Reducing the Impacts of Black Carbon and Other SLCPs in the Greater Himalaya.”

  • University of Virginia, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, Guest lecture PLAC 5870, Charlottesville VA, USA, 12 October 2011.  “Urban and Regional Air Pollution in the Himalaya and Beyond: Research and Policy Challenges”

  • India-ICIMOD Day, India Habitat Centre, Invited Speaker, New Delhi, India, 30 September 2011.  “Atmospheric Changes in the HKH Region: Role of a Regional Organization like ICIMOD.”

  • Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology, Invited Lecture, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2 January 2009. “How to Reduce Kathmandu Valley Air Pollution and Address Climate Change in Nepal.”

  • Tribhuvan University Central Department of Physics, Seminar, Kathmandu, Nepal, 14 August 2008, “Air Pollution in the Kathmandu Valley: From Science to Policy.”

  • International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Seminar, Kathmandu, Nepal, 11 July 2007, “Air Pollution, Haze, and Climate Change in the Himalaya Region.”

  • MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Workshop, Cambridge, MA, USA, December 7, 2006.  “Time Differentiated NOx Emissions Control Research Project: What Controls Ozone?”  

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency, Invited Presentation, Washington DC, USA, September 13, 2006. “Time Differentiated NOx Emissions Control Research Project: The Ozone Simulation Component.”  

  • United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Invited Presentation, Silver Spring, MD, USA, September 13, 2006. “Time Differentiated NOx Emissions Control Research Project: The Ozone Simulation Component.”  

Relevant Courses Attended

  • The Atmosphere (Harvard College)

  • Atmospheric Chemistry (Harvard College)
  • Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (Harvard Kennedy School)
  • Atmospheric Chemistry (MIT, taught by Nobel Laureate Mario Molina)
  • Atmospheric Physics (MIT)
  • Fluid Dynamics of Atmosphere and Ocean (MIT / Woodshole Institute of Oceanography)
  • General Circulation of the Earth’s Atmosphere (MIT)
  • Global Climate Change: Economics, Science and Policy (MIT)