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The Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Working Group meeting opened in Paris this morning with the clear message that opportunities and actions exist, and must be taken now to rapidly reduce air pollution and global warming.
UN Environment’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim, said that the growing number of deaths from air pollution meant that the world needed to reduce those numbers the same way it has done for polio, yellow fever, and malaria.
“We must act. We must act in the urban areas where far too many people are dying avoidable deaths because of air pollution from traffic, which could be avoided,” Mr Solheim said. “We must act in rural areas where millions still die from using smoky fuels for heating, lighting, or cooking. People who are simply dying because their own homes are filled with smoke. That must stop.”
But, he said, life can be different.
“Technology can transform our infrastructure, and it’s not rocket science, it’s not technology that will be available in twenty years [but technology available now],” Mr Solheim said. “At the core of the agenda for the Coalition, if we cut black carbon, if we reduce methane and we reduce hydrofluorocarbons we can halve the predicted levels of global warming. The benefits for our economies, for our environment, for the planet, and most importantly for human beings are enormous. This is why the CCAC gives us cause for optimism.”
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said that in order to deliver the agreement made at COP21 last December, and limit warming to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, action must increase immediately.
“Everyone must be involved,” Ms Espinosa said. “The CCAC’s efforts hold great potential to phase-down short-lived climate pollutants and give us a fighting chance to stay as far below 2 degrees as possible.”
Ms Espinosa urged countries to quantify and report their efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
“Knowing how effective our near term actions are, will help us understand how close we are to meeting our long term goal. And this understanding can be a productive part of the conversation on increasing the ambition on Nationally Determined Contributions moving forward,” Ms Espinosa said. “By working together we can design a better future for the atmosphere and offer every person clean air and a stable climate to thrive in.”
Jo Tyndall, Co-Chair of the UNFCCC’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement, said that it was timely to be looking at how we turn the words of the Paris agreement into action.
“Tackling CO2 is the most obvious action but it is equally clear that climate change must be tackled across multiple fronts, a range of gases, and sectors,” Ms Tyndal said. “As we know short-lived climate forcers are not in the atmosphere for very long but they are extremely potent, and they will need to be successfully managed if we are going to successfully meet the targets in the Paris agreement.”
Ms Tyndall said she hoped the CCAC Working Group would identify practical ways to ensure SLCPs are part of the climate mix as countries look to turn their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) from words into action, and encouraged delegates to consider very carefully how to build clarity and certainty into their actions.
“As we move to entry into force of the Paris agreement and its implementation, all of the INDCs will have to be translated into policies and plans. To get the strongest political buy-in to those policies and plans, they need to deliver multiple benefits, not only reducing emissions but also, for example, tackling health problems, delivering savings to consumers and business, supplying opportunities for sustainable economic development, building resilience, etc.
“I think the CCAC has shown really good form in terms of delivering to multiple objectives… It’s harnessed multiple governmental interests, managed to get win-win solutions, and has supported action on the ground,” Ms Tyndall said.
In a video presentation to the working group, Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Science at Duke University and Chair of the Coalition’s Scientific Advisory Panel, warned that we could reach the 1.5 degree target that the world wants to limit warming to as early as the 2030s, if current warming trends continue.
“This is a near term issue of meeting the goals that we came up with at COP21 in Paris,” Mr Shindell said. “The world has already warmed by one degree and we are already seeing negative impacts to health and wellbeing, which disproportionately impacts poor populations.”
Shindell also warned that some of the long term impacts like sea level rise will be related to how much heat is taken up by the ocean in the near term.
“There is an urgent need to limit near term climate change both because of the very long-term consequences and because of the immediate effect on health and wellbeing,” he said.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition Working Group met in Paris from September 20 to 21. The Working Group meeting was followed by a workshop for countries participating in the Coalition’s Supporting National Action and Planning on SLCPs (SNAP) to share experiences and advance their national plans and policies.
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