Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Fast cuts to non-CO2 climate pollutants can cut rate of warming in half

Almost half can be cut at a profit or low cost

Bali, Indonesia, November 25, 2011 – A new UNEP report details how fast action to reduce non-CO2 short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), including black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone, can cut the rate of global warming in half and the Arctic by two-thirds over the next 30-60 years. The UNEP report, which is a policy follow up to a preceding UNEP/WMO report in June, provides policy pathways to implement SLCF control measures building upon existing institutions, policies and regulatory frameworks.

Cutting SLCFs represents a “win-win” for climate mitigation, public health and food security, with benefits that justify action regardless of climate change policy. Targeted national efforts on 16 abatement measures, supported by regional and global frameworks, can prevent more than two million premature deaths a year, mainly women and children, with more than 80% of the health benefits occurring in Asia. Cutting SLCFs can avoid approximately 32 million tones of crop losses each year. Up to fifty percent of the identified control measures can be implemented at a net cost savings, including measures such as replacing traditional biomass burning stoves with modern efficient stoves and capturing landfill methane.

Cutting SLCFs is critical for protecting the Arctic, which has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world over the past fifty years. Arctic melting is predicted to contribute to sea level rise of as much as 5 feet by the end of the century. Reducing SLCFs could cut the rate of warming in the Arctic by two- thirds, reducing projected warming by 0.7°C and reducing the risk of passing predicted thresholds for accelerating positive climate feedbacks.

“UNEP has shown us the tools to fight back against near-term climate change,” said Durwood Zaelke, IGSD President, “and we now need to use the tools for fast mitigation to protect the world’s most vulnerable people and places from the worst impacts of climate change.”

The report identifies 16 national abatement measures that if fully implemented can cut emissions of black carbon by 77 percent and methane by 38 percent by 2030. These include: coal mine ventilation, controlling manure emissions, applying diesel particulate filters to vehicles, replacing traditional cookstoves, kilns, coke ovens and heaters with clean modern equivalents and fuels, and banning open field burning.

Sources and impacts of SLCFs vary greatly by region so national actions should be supported by regional efforts through existing air pollution agreements to build awareness and promote implementation. Global actions can also support national and regional action and can build on existing institutional arrangements to provide coordination, provide technical assistance and ensure adequate financial support for abatement measures.

The UNEP report is be available here.