An overview of monitoring and reduction strategies for health and climate change related emissions in the Middle East and North Africa region
This review assesses the current state of air pollution in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Emission types and sources in the region are identified and quantified to understand the monitoring, legislative and reduction needs through a systematic review of available literature. It is found that both health (e.g., particulate matter, PM; and heavy metals) and climate change (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) emissions are increasing with the time. Regarding health emissions, over 99% of the MENA population is exposed to PM levels that exceed the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The dominant source of climate change emissions is the energy sector contributing ∼38% of CO2 emissions, followed by the transport sector at ∼25%. Numerous studies have been carried out on air pollution in the region, however, there is a lack of comprehensive regional studies that would provide a holistic assessment. Most countries have air quality monitoring systems in place, however, the data is not effectively evaluated to devise pollution reduction strategies. Moreover, comprehensive emission inventories for the individual countries in the region are also lacking. The legislative and regulatory systems in MENA region follow the standards set by international environmental entities such as the WHO and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but their effective reinforcement remains a concern. It is concluded that the opportunities for emission reduction and control could be best implemented in the road transportation sector using innovative technologies. One of the potential ways forward is to channel finance flows from fossil fuel subsidies to upgrade road transport with public transportation systems such as buses and trains, as suggested by a 'high shift' scenario for MENA region. Furthermore, emission control programs and technologies are more effective when sponsored and implemented by the private sector; the success of Saudi Aramco in supporting national emission monitoring is one such example. Finally, an energy-pollution-water nexus is assessed for the region as an integrated approach to address its urban issues. The assessment of topic areas covered clearly suggests a need to control the main sources of air pollution to limit its relatively high impact on the human health in the MENA region.