Reducing short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane represents a major opportunity to help meet the 1.5°C warming target, while delivering major benefits for human health, energy security, soil replenishment, and rural employment.
Black carbon (soot) from incomplete combustion is a potent greenhouse gas that is very short-lived—lasting up to two weeks in the atmosphere—but in seven million pollution-related deaths annually. Methane is about 85 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years, the time span when humanity will be scrambling to get the climate emergency under control.
At a COP 26 session integrating short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) into climate action, Samira Bawumia, Second Lady of Ghana, said the use of solid fuel like firewood and agricultural waste for cooking kills more people than HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Women and children in the home bear the brunt, added Bawumia, an ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cooking Solutions, which promotes the transition to cleaner fuels and stoves.
Rachel Ruto, Second Lady of Kenya, said women are on “the front line of multiple crises.” Black carbon from cooking and sometimes lighting results in chronic obstructive lung disease, pneumonia, eye cataracts, and other severe health problems. Joyful Women, which Ruto founded, is a partner in a major study that documented the household-level impacts of SLCPs in Kenya.
“It’s time to move to the next stage: action,” Ruto said.
Arnold Kipchumba, project officer with the Kenya SLCP project, said it is essential to recognize the long-neglected link between health and climate action. Kipchumba said a substantial portion of the global effort to reduce methane could be achieved through measures that connect with health and other community benefits.
Charlotte Morton, founder of the World Biogas Association (WBA), said methane generated from anaerobic digestion of organic waste should be harnessed as an energy source. “Human activity produces 105 billion tonnes of organic wastes every year globally,” The WBA website declares. “By treating these wastes through [anaerobic digestion], as well as producing green gas and other valuable bioproducts, the biogas industry could deliver a reduction of over 10% in global GHG emissions by 2030.”
“It’s time for a new era of waste management,” Morton told session participants, in a talk that highlighted biogas as a fuel solution for clean cooking. “It’s time for an end to burn and bury.”
She added that harnessing waste is “at the heart of the circular economy” and has been hailed as a “win-win-win-win” solution, with potential job creation from biogas production estimated to be as high as 10 to15 million.