G8 agress over air pollution control scheme
Justin Gerdes, Contributor, Independent journalist specializing in energy and the environment
The unfolding drama surrounding the fate of the troubled eurozone and cratering Greek economy was surely higher on their agenda, but the world leaders who gathered at Camp David for the G8 summit earlier this month also managed to open a new front in the fight against climate change.
As noted a few days after the summit, first by The Telegraph’s Geoffrey Lean and later by James Murray of BusinessGreen, buried in the final communiqué was an announcement that the G8 had agreed to join the U.S.-led Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). The coalition, announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February, launched with seven members: Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Coalition members pledge to collaboratively take actions to reduce emissions of so-called “short-lived” climate pollutants such as black carbon (or soot), methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These pollutants account for over 30% of near-term global warming and cause 2 million premature deaths each year, according to the U.S. State Department.
Clean cookstoves can reduce emissions of black carbon (or soot). At its May 2012 summit, G8 leaders joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants, whose members pledge to curb black carbon, methane, and HFCs. Credit: U.S. Embassy, Nigeria; photo by Sani Mohammed
Effective measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutants include: mitigating fine particle pollution from diesel engines; reducing methane emissions from landfills, agriculture, or oil and gas operations; preventing HFC leaks from air-conditioners and refrigerators; and distributing more efficient cookstoves in developing countries.
Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for about a century, short-lived climate pollutants remain in the atmosphere from a few days to a few weeks (black carbon) to up to 15 years (methane, HFCs). Therein lay the opportunity. If policymakers put in place strong measures to tackle short-lived climate pollutants, which are much more potent planet-warming agents than CO2, it would significantly improve the odds of forestalling runaway climate change.
On April 24, in Stockholm, UNEP, which administers the CCAC, announced five fast-tracked priorities: fast action on diesel emissions, including from heavy duty vehicles and engines; upgrading old inefficient brick kilns, which are a significant source of black carbon emissions; accelerating the reduction of methane emissions from landfills; speeding up cuts in methane and other emissions from the oil and gas industry; and accelerating alternatives to HFCs.
At the Camp David summit, the G8 also commissioned the World Bank to investigate ways to integrate reduction of short-lived climate pollutants into its activities and asked the Bank to convene experts to evaluate new approaches to financing projects to reduce methane.
Note: This is the first of two posts looking at short-lived climate pollutants. Tomorrow, in part II, I’ll report on a panel recently convened by the California Air Resources Board on the regional and global impacts of black carbon, methane, and HFCs.