Head of the Coalition SecretariatClimate & Clean Air Coalition
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This blog originally appeared here on the Climate Action website on December 3, 2015
We live in a world that is increasingly urban. Cities have always attracted people looking for opportunity, education or a better life. They have also become the biggest producers of greenhouse gases and air pollution. This is becoming a serious public health threat – air pollution globally is now responsible for up to 7 million premature deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization. In many cities, breathing has become dangerous.
Like many other cities Paris and New Delhi recently experimented with no-car days and saw a drop in air pollution of up to 40 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. Paris’s mayor is going one step further with plans to ban all diesel vehicles from the city by 2020. Santiago de Chile and Mexico City have both improved their air quality since the historically smoggy 1980s – and are still working on rapidly getting pollution under control based on health emergencies.
There is another reason for fast action. The four main short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) – black carbon, methane, ground level ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – are also powerful climate forcers. These pollutants stay in the atmosphere for only a few days or up to a decade (see Figure 1). Studies have shown that abatement of these SLCPs through known technologies and control measures by 2030 could reduce warming by up to 0.6°C by 2050. Coupled with deep and lasting cuts to CO2, reducing SLCPs can keep help to keep us below 2°C of warming by the turn of this century (see Figure 2). In addition, these measures would help avoid almost 3 million deaths per year, and save approximately 50 million tonnes of crops.
Many of the SLCPs control measures will contribute to mitigating CO2 emissions. Addressing incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass will reduce black carbon and CO2 emissions, and have immediate local benefits. A recent study found that phasing down the use of HFCs could provide as much as 0.5°C in avoided warming by 2100, and up to 100 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050 by improving the energy efficiency of appliances as a part of any HFC replacement transition.
To tackle this challenge and opportunity the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) – now 50 countries and 60 international and non-governmental organisations – is launching its new 5-year strategy (2015-2020) to scale up action to support policy development and activities that will deliver substantial SLCP reductions in the near to medium term. This is done by collective and individual actions to promote transformational change.
Eleven initiatives in sectors that include agriculture, brick production, domestic cooking and heating, municipal solid waste, heavy duty diesel, oil and gas production and HFC alternatives are under way. The Coalition also supports national action planning with emissions assesment tools and is currently providing capacity strengthening in 14 countries.
The CCAC is also providing advice on financing and expanding the scientific evidence through regional assessments.
In the three years since its launch, the Coalition’s efforts are gaining traction and good things are starting to show:
The importance for fast action on SLCPs has gained attention in the climate agenda and for an increasing number of private sector businesses. It is also an opportunity to deploy new technologies. The topic will be present during many discussions at the Climate Conference in Paris, COP21. SLCP features as a focus area on the Lima Paris Action Agenda – a global movement to promote immediate action. CCAC partners and important businesses will make new announcements in four areas. These include:
In addition, fifteen countries have specifically mentioned SLCPs, air pollution, or relevant mitigation co-benefits in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – Benin, Central African Republic, Chile, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Lichtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Senegal, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Zambia.
Mexico and Chile both included separate sections in their INDCs on SLCPs, specifically accounting for black carbon. Mexico also pledged specific conditional and unconditional emissions reductions targets for black carbon emissions.
Mexico (2015) Intended Nationally Determined Contribution 1: “SLCPs have an important Global Warming Potential and a shorter life span in the atmosphere than CO2. Actions to abate SLCPs simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation in the near term and to the immediate improvement of air quality, as well as to generate positive impacts on human health and ecosystems conservation; in consistence with the recommendations contained in the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as with the guidelines of the Clean Air and Climate Coalition (CCAC) of which Mexico is a member.”
Together we can make the change – air pollution controllers, climate policy-makers, city officials, producers of oil and gas, air conditioning and refrigeration, heavy duty diesel vehicles and bricks, and farmers.
And I will make my own contribution at home – in choice of transport, producing less waste, separating and recycling. To breathe life!