Research 286: CON+AIR: Addressing Conflicts of Climate and Air Pollution

Authors: Eoin Ó Broin, Andrew Kelly, Gabriela Sousa Santos, Henrik Grythe and Luke Kelleher

Summary: The CON+AIR project presents two counterfactual scenarios for emissions and concentrations of air pollutants in Ireland in the year 2030.

Research 286 thumbnail

Published: 2019

ISBN: 978-1-84095-851-5

Pages: 34

Filesize: 1,972 KB

Format: pdf


Identifying Pressures

Air pollution presents a serious risk to human health and the environment. Ireland faces increasingly stringent and legally binding annual air pollutant emission “ceilings” out to 2030 and beyond, as well as “limit values” for the monitored levels of ambient air quality across the country. The CONAIR project highlights the sensitivity of national compliance to a clearly defined plausible alternative outlook – the “problematic pathway” scenario. This alternative outlook is driven by variables outside policy control (e.g. population and economic growth), as well as varied sectoral pathways (e.g. trends in residential solid fuel use) where policy and technology interventions can have a strong bearing on air pollutant outcomes. In particular, the CONAIR project focuses on the pressures linked to certain climate-related policies (e.g. biomass combustion, indirect encouragement of use of diesel vehicles) and the effect that these can have on national air pollutant levels, associated health impacts and European Directive compliance.

Informing Policy

The CONAIR project delivers analysis that puts scale on the expected impact of the problematic pathway on national emissions of air pollutants. This is important as, too often, policy can become somewhat simplistic and binary in its characterisation of “good” things and “bad” things. The CONAIR project helps to identify the scale of impacts and outcomes associated with a number of relevant variables and thereby offers insight on the issues of most relevance to air pollution emission outcomes in Ireland, and the menu of policies and actions required to address these challenges.Furthermore, the CONAIR project has delivered the first high-resolution spatial maps of air pollution emissions across Ireland. The project delivered these on a 2km x 2km grid nationwide and on a 100m x 100m scale for NO2 in Dublin. These high-resolution maps give an indication of the areas most affected by air pollution emission changes in Ireland and offer insight on the locations where additional investment and attention may be merited with regard to the national air pollution monitoring station network in Ireland.

Developing Solutions

The CONAIR project develops and describes a “solution pathway”, which is designed to counter the trends and emission outcomes that are detailed in the problematic pathway. The solution pathway does not alter variables outside policy control (e.g. population growth) but instead seeks to identify policy levers and technology controls that can deliver further improvements in emission abatement and associated national air quality. The project quantifies energy, emissions and air pollution concentration outcomes for the problematic pathway and solution pathway and highlights the particular importance of:

  • electrification of residential home heating in Ireland;
  • shifting away from all low-efficiency combustion heating systems such as open fireplaces;
  • standards and inspections with regard to home heating systems, their installation and fuels;
  • electrification of the transport sector;
  • capacity and levels of service improvement for the public transport sector in major cities;
  • substantial investment in non-motorised travel infrastructure;
  • long-term strategies to support compact higher density development;
  • support for innovative strategies to reduce travel, such as remote working.

In this manner the CONAIR project directly supports the development of related policy in Ireland