Climate impacts of air quality policy: Switching to a natural gas-fueled public transportation system in New Delhi

Between 2001 and 2003, public transport vehicles in New Delhi were required to switch their fuel to natural gas in an attempt to reduce their air pollution impacts. This study examines the climatic impacts of New Delhi’s fuel switching policy, and outlines implications for such efforts in rapidly industrializing countries. Natural gas is mostly composed of methane, an important greenhouse gas. Emitted aerosols (black carbon, particulate organic carbon, and sulfate) also cause radiative forcing. We find that methane and black carbon emissions are critical contributors to the change in carbon dioxide equivalent [CO2(e)] emissions. In New Delhi, the switch to natural gas results in a 30% increase in CO2(e) when the impact of aerosols is not considered. However, when aerosol emissions are taken into account in our model, the net effect of the switch is estimated to be a 10% reduction in CO2(e), and there may be as much as a 30% reduction in CO2(e). There is significant potential for emissions reductions through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Clean Development Mechanism for such fuel switching projects.