How Albania, Colombia, and Moldova are leading the fight against air pollution and climate change

Air pollution is one of the most serious environmental and health challenges facing the world today. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 7 million people die every year from exposure to polluted air. Air pollution also contributes to global warming, which threatens the stability of the climate and the well-being of future generations.

While many countries are struggling to reduce their emissions and meet their climate goals, some are showing remarkable progress and leadership in tackling air pollution and climate change. A new study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Clean Air Fund (CAF) has identified three such countries: Albania, Colombia, and Moldova.

How Albania, Colombia, and Moldova are leading the fight against air pollution and climate change
How Albania, Colombia, and Moldova are leading the fight against air pollution and climate change

Albania: A pioneer in renewable energy

Albania is a small country in Southeast Europe with a population of about 2.8 million people. It is one of the few countries in the world that produces almost all of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly hydropower. Albania has also committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and to increasing its share of renewable energy in heating, cooling, and transport.

The study praises Albania for its ambitious climate targets and its efforts to diversify its energy mix and improve its energy efficiency. It also highlights the challenges that Albania faces, such as the vulnerability of its hydropower sector to droughts and floods, the lack of adequate infrastructure and regulation for other renewables, and the high levels of air pollution in urban areas due to traffic and biomass burning.

The study recommends that Albania should invest more in solar and wind power, promote electric vehicles and public transport, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and strengthen its air quality monitoring and management systems.

Colombia: A leader in sustainable mobility

Colombia is a large country in South America with a population of about 50 million people. It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, but also one of the most vulnerable to climate change impacts such as floods, landslides, droughts, and forest fires. Colombia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 compared to a business-as-usual scenario, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The study commends Colombia for its leadership in sustainable mobility, especially in its capital city Bogotá, which has one of the largest and most successful bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in the world, called TransMilenio. Bogotá also has an extensive network of bike lanes and car-free days, which encourage active transport and reduce emissions and congestion.

The study also recognizes the efforts that Colombia has made to protect its forests, which store large amounts of carbon and provide essential ecosystem services. It notes that Colombia has implemented policies and programs to prevent deforestation, restore degraded lands, and promote sustainable agriculture.

The study suggests that Colombia should continue to expand and improve its public transport systems, especially in smaller cities; increase its use of renewable energy sources; implement stricter emission standards for vehicles; and enhance its air quality monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

Moldova: A champion of green recovery

Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe with a population of about 3.5 million people. It is one of the poorest countries in Europe, but also one of the most ambitious in terms of climate action. Moldova has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The study applauds Moldova for its green recovery plan, which aims to stimulate economic growth and create jobs while addressing environmental and social challenges. The plan includes measures such as increasing renewable energy production, improving energy efficiency in buildings, modernizing public transport systems, supporting organic farming, and promoting circular economy practices.

The study also acknowledges the progress that Moldova has made in improving its air quality over the past decade, thanks to the introduction of cleaner fuels, more efficient heating systems, and better waste management.

The study advises that Moldova should further develop its renewable energy potential, especially solar and wind; phase out coal-fired power plants; strengthen its legal framework and institutional capacity for environmental governance; and raise public awareness and participation on air pollution and climate issues.

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