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Remarks by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner on Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

New Coalition Calls Time on Short-Lived Pollutants

If someone proposed that you could save close to 2.5 million lives annually, cut global crop losses by around 30 million tonnes a year and curb climate change by around half a degree Celsius what would you do?

Act of course: and that is what six countries, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), will be announcing today under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.

The targets of this new partnership, involving Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana,Mexico,Sweden and the United States, are black carbon or 'soot', hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and methane - the latter being a powerful greenhouse gas but now known to be one that also aggravates the formation of other climate pollutants.

More than a decade of painstaking science has now built a powerful case that can no longer be ignored.

Namely, that swift action on the multiple sources of black carbon, HFCs, and methane can deliver extraordinary benefits in terms of public health, food security and near term climate protection.

Meanwhile, assessments, including those coordinated by the UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization, indicate that in some extremely vulnerable areas the climate benefits may be even bigger.

In the Arctic and in mountain regions where glaciers are at risk from sharply rising rates of melting, temperature rises might be reduced by up to 0.7 degrees Celsius up to mid-century.

Action on HFCs will also assist in climate protection: A recent study coordinated by UNEP projects that by 2050 HFCs could be responsible for annual emissions equivalent to 3.5 to 8.8 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2eq) - comparable to total current annual emissions from transport, estimated at around 6-7 Gt annually.

There is more good news: It is estimated that 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 investment.

This is because some of the measures, such as recovering rather than emitting natural gas during oil production, allow the methane to be harvested as a clean source of fuel.

Cutting black carbon emissions by, for example, replacing inefficient cookstoves and traditional brick kilns with more efficient ones also cuts fuel costs for households and kiln operators.

Today in Washington, ministers from the six countries concerned outlined how, with initial funding of US$10 million, they propose to take the effort forward:

o Raise awareness of the urgency and benefits of taking actions to reduce emissions of these short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), which include black carbon, methane, and some shorter-lived hydroflourocarbons, or HFCs;

o Identify common approaches to take new action on these pollutants, and reinforce actions in other organizations such as the Arctic Council;

o Promote the development of national or regional SLCP action plans, and track progress;

o Mobilize funding commitments for SLCP mitigation of initially US$10 million in 2012 and provide up-front finance to create enabling environments for action, includingleveraging private sector investments in SLCFs mitigation.

Fast action on short lived climate forcers can deliver quick wins in a world often frustrated by the glacial pace at which sustainability challenges appear to be being addressed.

In respect to climate change, it might assist in keeping a global temperature below 2 degrees C but only for so long.

Unless there is also decisive action on carbon dioxide, then reducing all sources of short lived climate forcers will not spare the world and its people from dangerous climate change over the 21st Century.

But it would be a failure of leadership not to seize the benefits so manifest in respect to the health of humans and the health of our world.

If someone proposed that you could save close to 2.5 million lives annually, cut global crop losses by 25 million tonnes a year and curb climate change by around half a degree Celsius what would you do?

Act of course, and we invite countries across the globe to join this inspiring and transformational coalition that uniquely unites the interests of the developing and he developed world and above all the interests and future prospects for seven billion people, rising to over nine billion by 2050.




Further Resources

Integrated Assessment on Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

Our Planet: Cutting short-lived climate warming pollutants levels in half

Remarks By US Secretary Of State Clinton on Short-Lived Climate Forcers


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