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Scientific and policy experts from across the Latin America and the Caribbean region convened in Panama this week to start the work on a major integrated assessment of the short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) over the region.
SLCPs are substances with a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere - a few days to a few of decades – and have a warming effect on the climate. The main SLCPs are black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). With the exception of HFCs, SLCPs are also air pollutants, with various detrimental impacts on human health, agriculture and ecosystems. SLCPs are responsible for a substantial fraction of the climate forcing experienced to date and have a significant control over the rate of warming in the near term (next few decades).
Global studies have shown that rapid action on these pollutants in Latin America and the Caribbean could reduce as much as 300,000 tonnes of black carbon emissions and about 14 million tonnes of methane emissions annually. This would lead to tens of thousands of avoided premature deaths and millions tonnes of avoided crop yield losses each year in the region and help reduce the rate of warming in the near term.
During the three day meeting, under the chairmanship of Paulo Artaxo from the University of São Paulo and Graciela Raga from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, experts looked at the various aspects of the SLCP issue and mitigation opportunity across the region. They discussed their relevance to the key regional challenges of air pollution and development in megacities and rural areas, women´s and children´s health as well as climate change and variability in the most sensitive areas of the region such as the Andes and the Amazon.
SLCPs are receiving increased attention across Latin America and the Caribbean. Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Peru have joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and decided to take meaningful action to reduce these harmful substances. They have already started the work and engaged in various Coalition initiatives. Over the past year, Mexico and Colombia developed their national SLCP plan, conducted inventories of HFCs consumption and use, and engaged in actions to address methane and black carbon emissions from brick kilns, waste management, and oil and natural gas production. Chile has established a national task force on heavy duty diesel vehicles, the Chilean cities of Viña del Mar and Concepción are looking at ways to reduce their emissions from municipal waste while Valparaiso is about to start developing a clean port programs. Chile is now about to test a new technology that will avoid the use of high global warming potential HFCs in supermarket fridges and freezers. Peru has set a target for the introduction of 50ppm sulfur diesel fuels by 2016.
In March 2014, the XIX Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment for Latin America and the Caribbean adopted a Regional Plan of Action for Atmospheric Pollutants in which members of the Intergovernmental Network on Air Quality agreed to join efforts to combat air pollution, including SLCPs.
During an Inter-Governmental Consultation on SLCPs with 20 governments from Latin America and the Caribbean convened by the CCAC in Bogotá, policy makers underlined the need for a robust scientific assessment and credible and concrete recommendations to support successful national action on SLCPs. This scientifically independent assessment, sponsored by the CCAC, will provide a regional focus for increased cooperation in the region.
Over the coming months the assessment team will work to bring into the effort more policy makers, scientists, practitioners, and other key stakeholders from the region.
UNEP through its Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama is coordinating this major assessment process with support from key CCAC Partners including the Government of Mexico, through the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change.
At the end of the meeting, Paulo Artaxo, Chair of the Assessment, underlined the importance of the effort, “Air pollution, especially in our growing cities, is harming the health of women and children and climate change is threatening the most vulnerable areas of our region. Short-lived climate pollutants control offers an important opportunity to address these challenges and deliver substantial benefits for the well-being of the populations. After this first author meeting, I am happy to say that top scientists from all over Latin America and the Caribbean are committed to deliver a major scientifically robust integrated assessment with concrete and practical policy recommendations. I believe this report can make a difference for decision-makers to scale up their national action and reduce these harmful emissions over the region. “
The assessment will be completed by the end of 2015. CCAC Partners from Asia and the Pacific are now looking at starting similar assessment efforts in their region.