Faster, more coordinated reductions in short-lived climate pollutants (SLPCs) may be one of the lower-profile but more important results of last week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York, after environment ministers from dozens of countries agreed to focus on a class of greenhouse gases that has mostly been overlooked so far in international climate agreements, InsideClimate News reports.
“We can avoid about 0.6°C of warming between now and mid-century by taking action on short-lived climate pollutants,” said Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Senior Fellow Dan McDougall, adding that “we are going to avoid the annual loss of three million lives prematurely because of the air pollution aspects” associated with particulate and methane emissions.
“It’s incalculable how important that is.”
SLPCs “linger in the atmosphere for only a short time, but they are highly potent, both in warming the planet and in their local impacts on public health,” InsideClimate explains. “These super pollutants include methane, which escapes from oil and gas systems, agriculture and livestock; hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in refrigeration and cooling; and black carbon, a major component of soot.”
Without reducing them, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded, humanity won’t hit the target of limiting average global warming to 1.5°C.
Only nine countries so far have explicitly targeted SLPCs in their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement, InsideClimate writes, citing the World Resources Institute. With countries expected to set new greenhouse gas reduction targets next year, the coalition “is encouraging all countries to include short-lived climate pollutants in their next round of commitments,” and calling for technical assistance to help developing countries step up.
“Approximately 30 countries are ready to include short-lived climate pollutants in future Paris commitments, and the coalition hopes to expand that significantly,” the U.S.-based publication adds, citing McDougall.
InsideClimate identifies China as a country that has yet to confirm its 2020 commitment, but is increasingly looking to address greenhouse gas emissions and local air quality issues in tandem. “By killing multiple birds with one stone, co-governance of the climate, environment, and development is cost-effective and achieves greater economic, social, environmental, and climate benefits,” said Special Representative for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua. “It works in China, and I am sure it will work in other countries.”