The United States will participate in new six-nation voluntary initiative to reduce emissions of short-lived pollutants. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the environmental ministers of Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, and Sweden, the ambassador from Ghana, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in announcing formation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
The intent of the coalition is to follow-up on several UNEP reports that found that pollutants such as methane, black carbon or soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are more of a factor in the earth’s changing climate than previously thought. Reductions in these pollutants will also have a beneficial effect on human health. For example, UNEP has reported that “big cuts” in emissions of black carbon can prevent as many as 2.5 million premature deaths by 2030.
“More than one-third of current global warming is caused by short-lived pollutants,” said Secretary Clinton. “They also destroy millions of tons of crops every year and wreak havoc on people’s health. 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 wastes in their fields. Furthermore, methane – a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – can also be an abundant source of energy if we capture it instead of just venting it into the air or flaring it.”
UNEP has determined that reducing these pollutants can slow climate change by up to a half degree Celsius by 2050, said Clinton, who added that the world’s goal is to limit the rise in global temperature to two degrees C. “So a half a degree, or 25 percent, is significant,” she said.
EPA participates in similar international endeavors such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Global Methane Initiative wherein the Agency has committed nearly $60 million to help fund methane reduction projects in 18 countries. The Agency also works to reduce HFCs through the significant new alternatives policy (SNAP).
But Clinton called the new coalition the first of its kind. The coalition will conduct a “targeted, practical, and highly energetic global campaign” to mobilize resources, assemble political support, help countries develop and implement a national action plan, and raise public awareness. Specific reduction goals were not given, but UNEP reports indicate possible reductions of methane emissions by 38 percent below business as usual by 2030 and a 77 percent reduction of black carbon.
Specific measures listed by UNEP include:
- Spreading clean-burning biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing countries.
- Banning the open burning of agricultural waste.
- Replacing traditional brick kilns with vertical shaft and Hoffman kilns.
- Cutting methane leaks from long-distance gas pipelines.
The coalition partners have committed more that $15 million to initial actions with $12 million of that amount pledged by the U.S.
Remarks by Clinton, Jackson, and representatives of other coalition members are at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/02/184061.htm.