New international Climate and Clean Air Coalition to focus on reduction of short-lived climate pollutants
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a new global initiative to seize the opportunity of realizing concrete benefits on climate, health, food and energy resulting from reducing short-lived climate pollutants. The coalition will focus efforts on reducing black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and methane. The founding coalition partners are Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States, together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Such pollutants together account for approximately one-third of current global warming, have significant impacts on public health, the environment, and world food productivity. Fast action on pollutants such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane may help limit near-term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2 °C (3.6 °F), according to an assessment released last year in Bonn, Germany, during a meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (Earlier post.)
At the same time, by 2030, such action can prevent millions of premature deaths, while also avoiding the annual loss of more than 30 million tons of crops. Moreover, many of these benefits can be achieved at low cost and with significant energy savings.
The new coalition represents the first coordinated effort to treat these pollutants together, as a collective challenge. It is intended to catalyze new actions and highlight and bolster the work of existing efforts such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the Arctic Council, the Montreal Protocol, and the Global Methane Initiative (GMI). The Coalition’s work will augment, not replace, global action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2). The initiative of developing and developed countries was catalyzed by the Federated States of Micronesia as a way to slow sea level rise.
The coalition will reduce short-lived climate pollutants by driving the development of national action plans and the adoption of policy priorities; building capacity among developing countries; mobilizing public and private funds for action; raising awareness globally; fostering regional and international cooperation, and; improving scientific understanding of the pollutant impacts and mitigation.
The United States is already actively engaged in efforts to reduce these pollutants on the national and international levels. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addresses these pollutants through programs that protect public health and the environment. Work on the international level is taking place through the Global Methane Initiative, the Montreal Protocol, the Arctic Council and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, launched by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010.
The formal declaration by Secretary Clinton and her allies opens up a second front in the fight against global warming. This may be the only way to reduce climate impacts in the near term, and is a critical complement to the primary battle to reduce emissions of CO2.
Historically this non-CO2 approach has enjoyed broad political support from conservatives, businesses, and public health advocates, and has the potential to expand the coalition involved in fighting climate change, and to build momentum for a pragmatic climate effort.—Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development
The secretariat will be hosted by UNEP. A dedicated fund is being raised, with an initial contribution of $12 million from the US and $3 million from Canada for the first two years. Sweden is expected to add to the fund, and other donors will be asked to contribute in the coming months.
This funding is new and in addition to the $20 million the US is currently providing for the Global Clean Cook Stove Initiative ($10 million) and for the Global Methane Initiative ($10 million), which already includes hundreds of projects in 40 countries. The Climate and Clean Air initiative is expected to expand rapidly to include at least 40 countries in the first two months. A ministerial meeting is planned for Stockholm in late April.
The science supporting fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants has been developed over the last 25 years, with by Dr. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography playing a leading role, often in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Dr. Mario Molina, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has been working on the fluorinated gases, which include HFCs, since his seminal paper in Nature on CFCs with Dr. Sherwood Roland in 1974.
Last year Dr. Drew Shindell at NASA and a team of scientists working with UNEP culled 16 primary targets for cutting black carbon and methane from a pool of over 2,000 measures. The Shindell team calculated the costs and benefits of targeting these eight black carbon measures and eight methane measures, concluding that they can cut the rate of global warming in half over the next 30 to 40 years, while preventing millions of deaths a year and enhancing food security by cutting losses of four major grains by up to 4%. A substantial part of these cuts can be done at little or no net cost. The results were published last month in Science. (Earlier post.)