Washington — A two-month-old international plan to accelerate action against climate-damaging pollutants is gaining momentum with decisions from Stockholm April 24. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is moving forward on “fast and federated action on short-lived climate pollutants,” according to a press release from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the formation of the coalition in February with ministers from the partner nations of Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico and Sweden and the head of UNEP, which will serve as the secretariat for the new coalition.
The coalition is targeting a subgroup of greenhouse gases with an oversized effect on global warming, including methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Scientific evidence shows that rapid action against these short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can reduce projected warming by half a degree Celsius by 2050.
“These other pollutants are a big deal,” said U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, representing the United States at the first ministerial meeting of the coalition in Stockholm. “They collectively account for more than 30 percent of current global warming, so they’re big.”
Coalition partners in Stockholm resolved to take concerted action in five different areas to start reducing SLCPs, Stern told reporters in a telephone conference call.
“We’re going to seek to work with key companies to substantially reduce the leakage, venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production, which accounts for about 20 percent of human-caused methane emissions,” Stern said.
The coalition members also agreed to push for action in the reduction of “black carbon,” or soot, by stepping up activities to clean up diesel emissions in transportation.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is also focusing new attention on developing alternatives for HFCs, which are substitutes for the ozone-destroying CFCs phased out some years ago. HFCs are easy on the ozone layer, but they are a greenhouse gas, and Stern said the coalition will urge actions to minimize leakage of HFCs and encourage recovery of the gases when possible.
Eliminating the open burning of agricultural lands and supporting a campaign to introduce broader use of clean cookstoves in developing-world households are other actions receiving coalition consideration, Stern said.
Beyond resolve for specific action, the coalition is getting broader support, with four individual governments, the European Commission and the World Bank all announcing that they are joining the group.
“We’ve come quite far fast in the last two months,” Stern said. Though he is unable to predict precisely how the intentions expressed in Stockholm will be translated into particular actions on the ground, he said the resolve for action is potent. “We will be seeking to move in these different areas at pretty high velocities.”
Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway and the European Commission committed to join the coalition at this first official meeting at the ministerial level.
Nigeria’s decision to join is particularly significant for addressing methane venting and leakage. “There are enormous opportunities for reducing methane emissions from sources such as the oil and gas industry and landfills that can benefit Nigeria and its people,” said Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, Nigeria’s minister of the environment.
The World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development said the bank makes multibillion-dollar investments in clean energy each year, but seeks to achieve more through membership in this coalition. “The climate and clean air coalition puts a practical new deal on the table, one that helps slow global warming while reducing the soot and smog that is damaging food crops and health worldwide,” said Rachel Kyte.
Colombia joins the coalition with clear recognition of the urgency to act on short-lived climate pollutants, said Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development Frank Pearl. “Colombia is among several countries in our region to act on soot particles from vehicles and other contaminating sources,” he said.
Clinton emphasized the special dangers of soot emissions when the partner nations announced the coalition in February. “Millions die annually from constantly breathing in black carbon soot that comes from cookstoves in their own homes, from diesel cars and trucks on their roads, from the open burning of agricultural waste in their fields,” Clinton said.