Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Arctic States Commit to Reduce Black Carbon Soot Up to 33 per cent

May 12, 2017

Reaffirm need for fast action to reduce black carbon and methane pollution, in addition to carbon dioxide

Fairbanks, Alaska– Arctic Council Ministers from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States set for the first time a collective goal to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic Region and stressed “the need for global action to reduce both long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants” in the Arctic.

Noting with concern that the pace and scale of continuing Arctic warming will depend on “future emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants” the Council adopted the first Pan-Arctic report to achieve collective progress to reduce black carbon and methane emissions by both Arctic and Observer States. The Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane; Summary of Progress and Recommendations report sets a goal to drastically reduce black carbon emissions by at least 25–33 percent below 2013 levels by 2025.

“The Arctic is the fastest-warming part of the planet, warming up roughly twice as fast as the rest of the globe,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Protecting this rapidly warming region requires immediate, targeted action against the climate pollutants causing massive harm right now,” Zaelke added.

Black carbon and methane emissions reductions are a critical opportunity to cut the rate of global warming in half and to cut the rate of warming in the Arctic by two thirds over the next few decades. This will provide targeted protection for the most vulnerable peoples in addition to preserving glaciers, snow pack, and sea ice. The Expert Group report states that “reducing emissions of black carbon in the Arctic is a major and critical step towards protecting this region from climate damages.”

“Changes in the Arctic could deliver the global disaster we fear, and on a pace that is unmanageable,” said Zaelke. “The Arctic States’ commitment to reduce black carbon and methane emissions is a critical step to maintain the stability of the global climate system and protect those most at risk affected by climate change.”

Reducing short-lived climate pollutants to protect regions like the Arctic plays a critical role in protecting the rest of the global climate system, especially from accelerating climate feedbacks that are particular to the Arctic. Dangerous climate feedbacks have the potential to amplify global warming and unleash major global implications, including the melting of sea ice and snow pack that decreases albedo and increases absorption of solar radiation, the release of massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost and ocean sediments, and the release of carbon dioxide and black carbon from increased boreal forest fires.

The Expert Group report recommends tackling emissions from four priority sectors with substantial warming impact on the Arctic– diesel-powered mobile sources, oil and gas methane leakage, venting and flaring, residential biomass combustion appliances, and solid waste disposal.

To slow the pace of warming over the next two to three decades, both globally and in the Arctic, reducing short-lived climate pollutant emissions is an essential complement to global action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the Expert Group reiterates global action on carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases together with SLCPs offers the only path to achieve the internationally agreed goal, as set forth in the Paris Agreement to limit warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and move towards 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A copy of the Fairbanks Declaration 2017 can be found here.

The full report Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane; Summary of Progress and Recommendations here.

IGSD’s Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants is here.