Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week announced the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a voluntary partnership thast includes the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to reduce short-lived atmospheric pollutants such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon, or soot. These fast-acting climate pollutants are estimated to be responsible for about a third of global warming over the past 50 years, and are proven to have significant impacts on public health and world food production.
On Thursday, Clinton and other leaders emphasized that it remains important to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to address long-term climate-change challenges. But the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can bring important near-term benefits for climate, human health, welfare, and the environment, she said.
The six-nation coalition hopes to grow to include other nations committed to reducing emissions of SLCPs. This approach differs from the international process for controlling CO2 emissions, which focuses on reaching consensus agreements among a much larger group of nations.
Emissions of methane, which is more than 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2 by weight in the short term, can be reduced by measures such as fixing leaky gas pipes and aerating rice paddy fields. Soot—which warms the atmosphere and accelerates ice melting in the Arctic and elsewhere, and combines with other pollutants to cause heart disease, lung disease, and cancer that contributes to 2 million premature deaths per year—can be minimized with diesel-particle filters in vehicles, cleaner cookstove models, and other measures. Ozone created by SLCPs also contributes to lung damage and reduces crop yields.
A recent scientific report by UNEP showed that a concerted effort to reduce SLCPs could significantly delay global warming while helping to avoid the loss of millions of tons of crops and preventing millions of premature deaths per year by 2030.
This new Coalition will provide funding to developing countries to implement solutions and help raise supplementary funds from the public and private sectors for additional mitigation projects. To start, the Coalition is being funded with $15 million over two years—with $12 million coming from the United States and $3 million from Canada. It will complement related programs and partnerships such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, in which several U.S. Government agencies, private companies, and national governments are collaborative partners.
For a review of sources of short-lived climate pollutants by economic sector, please see: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/02/02/0906548107.full.pdf.
Philip Duffy is a Senior Policy Analyst and Becky Fried is a Policy Analyst at OSTP