Climate and Clean Air Benefits: Actions for Controlling Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
Dr. Klaus Topfer, former Executive Director of UNEP, chaired the discussion, introducing the topic of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) and the speakers present. He mentioned the importance of this issue and the recent meeting in Washington, DC that formally launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.
The Scientific Case for Fast Action for Near-Term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits
SLCPs include methane, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and many hydrofluorocarbons. They represent one of the most overlooked issues facing our environment, air pollution in developing countries. Over three million people a year die prematurely as a result of outdoor air pollution. This number is only estimated to increase because the figures are currently under-estimated.
Reducing SLCPs will have multiple benefits, including: reducing air pollution and its impacts; slowing down near-term global warming; and, reducing the impact of regional climate change, such as the deposit of Black Carbon on glacier ice that accelerates the melting rate.
There are sixteen discrete measures to reduce the emission of SLCPs as outlined in a recent report by UNEP. These measures are not ground-breaking but they are already in use in many countries. These include activities such as: Methane recovery; clean cookstoves; particle filters; and, banning the open burning of waste. In addition, the reduction of methane may result in the reduced levels of ozone at ground level, thereby preventing up to 32 million tons of crop loss a year after 2030.
About 50 per cent of both methane and black carbon emission reductions can be achieved through these measures that result in net cost savings (as a global average) over their technical lifetime.
Introducing the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
Bangladesh is proud to be one of the founding members of the Coalition. This initiative is intended to combat emissions of methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons and to supplement the international effort to tackle global warming.
The initiative is voluntary and open to new members. Bangladesh welcomes any State or organization that is ready to take concerted actions to reduce the emissions of SLCPs. It is complementary, but does not replace, efforts to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions and long-term global warming.
Bangladesh is particularly interested in the multiple benefits of introducing clean cookstoves, especially for improving the health of women and children. In this respect, they are currently partnering with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to widely distribute clean cookstoves. Strategies for micro-credit funding of clean cookstoves are seen as another opportunity to implement the recommendations of UNEP’s Report.
Stockholm+40 and Near-Term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits
Stockholm+40 also represents one of the early milestones for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.
Sweden has experienced the negative effects of SLCPs, including health impacts resulting from air pollution produced by old diesel cars as well as the impact of Tropospheric Ozone on crop yields.
The current Coalition includes stakeholders who are ready to take action and share the burdens that SLCPs present. There is a need for investment in this Initiative, especially for the Secretariat and initial actions. Thus far, founding partners have implemented some, but not all, of the sixteen recommendations; increased funding will aid in their efforts to do so.
It is hoped that many countries and NGOs will join the Coalition and support this initiative in whatever way that they can. Given the current global financial situation, there is a need to focus on measures that have economic benefits and require little cost. Sweden also noted other potential benefits, such as improving the health of women using cookstoves.
The side event concluded with a High-Level Dialogue with representation of some of the founding member States, including Bangladesh, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.
A keystone approach of the environmental policy in Mexico has been air quality and the protection of health. Addressing SLCPs produces a win-win result for the environment and health, as well as the economy. In this respect, measures to reduce emissions of most SLCPs could be conceptualised as contributing to a green economy.
The United States of America acknowledged that action around these pollutants is going to come together in a coordinated fashion and that ‘action’ is the defining aspect of this Coalition. However, it does not and should not usurp any actions taken to address long-term climate change.
Canada stated that the initiative was result-oriented and does not displace any negotiations aimed at reducing long-term climate change. Canada also noted that these actions, when taken in conjunction with efforts to reduce long-term climate change, may prevent a two to five degree increase in global temperatures.
Looking ahead, a meeting is planned on 23 to 24 of April 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden, which coincides with the Fortieth Anniversary of the Stockholm Conference of 1972 that established UNEP. The Coalition welcomes new partners to attend and participate. UNEP will host the Secretariat of the Coalition. Current science and the Framework for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants will be discussed further.