February 17, 2012
US Joins in Launch of Initiative to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
by Robert Kropp
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a partnership of the UN Environment Program and six countries,
seeks to encourage reductions in methane, black carbon, and ozone that could reduce global warming
and avoid millions of premature deaths.
Six countries—Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the US—have joined with the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in a partnership to
reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). The pollutants targeted by the partnership are black
carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and methane.
According to a report published last year
by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO), "These short-lived climate forcers—methane, black carbon and ozone—are fundamentally
different from longer-lived greenhouse gases, remaining in the atmosphere for only a relatively
"A small number of emission reduction measures targeting black carbon and
ozone precursors could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food
security, and ecosystems," the report continued.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, as
the partnership is known, "is not the answer to the climate crisis," US Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton said. "There is no way to effectively address climate change without reducing carbon
dioxide, the most dangerous, prevalent, and persistent greenhouse gas. It stays in the atmosphere
for hundreds of years. So this coalition is intended to complement, not supplant, the other actions
we are, and must be, taking."
With initial funding of more than $15 million, the Coalition
"is not an initiative to take attention away from some of the fundamental challenges we face in
combating global warming," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. "On the contrary, it is
buying us back some time that we have already lost."
Black carbon originates in emissions
from motor vehicles, cooking and heating stoves that use coal or wood, and open field burning of
agricultural waste. Methane is often emitted by coal mines and the production of oil and natural
According to the report, emissions reduction measures targeting SLCPs would reduce
future global warming by 0.5˚C and avoid 2.4 million premature deaths every year. The measures
would be especially effective in Arctic regions, where they could reduce warming by about
two-thirds over the next 30 years.
"UNEP has identified a package of 16 major actions,"
Clinton said, "which include replacing inefficient cookstoves and traditional brick kilns with more
efficient ones to cut down on black carbon, stopping the burning of agricultural waste, harvesting
coal mine methane, improving wastewater treatment, and adopting emissions standards on vehicles."
"Every one of the actions has already been applied somewhere, and so we know they work,"
Steiner added, "Around half of the black carbon and methane emission
reductions can be achieved through measures that result in cost savings over the lifetime of the
However, the Coalition has not set reduction targets for the partner
countries; instead, it seeks to drive the development of national action plans and fund measures to
introduce efficient cooking stoves and develop methane capture technologies.
black carbon, methane and other short-lived climate forcers is no substitute for a strong,
sustained effort to significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate
change," Eileen Claussen, President of the US-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), said. "But targeted
efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollution can moderate climate impacts in the near term while
we work toward the longer-term strategies needed to rein in carbon dioxide emissions."