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Parallel strategies needed for both near-term and long-term protection

Short-lived climate pollutants more than short-term fix, benefits extend beyond 2200

Pressure must remain on CO2 to spur technology innovation

Washington, DC, 12 December 2013 – A paper to be published today in Science describes the importance of reducing both long-lived CO2 and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) to achieve near- and long-term climate goals, along with other benefits for health and food security from reductions of the SLCPs. SLCPs include black carbon particulates, methane, tropospheric ozone—the main component of urban smog—and hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used primarily as coolants.

The authors include two Harvard professors, Julie Shoemaker and Daniel Schrag, and two professors from the University of California, San Diego, V. Ramanathan and Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. They explain that cuts to SLCPs should not be traded off for increased emissions in CO2, and that parallel strategies to cut both CO2 and SLCPs are needed to keep warming to an acceptable level of no more than 2.0°C above pre-Industrial levels through the end of the century:

“Reducing emissions of SLCPs is an essential component of any comprehensive climate action plan for addressing both near- term and long-term climate change impacts. There are real opportunities to reduce emissions of SLCPs without distracting from other mitigation efforts focused on CO2.”

SLCPs cause a third or more of today’s warming. They stay in the atmosphere for only a short time— hours to days for tropospheric ozone, days to weeks for black carbon, about a decade for methane, and about 15 years for HFCs. This means that fast reductions of SLCP produce fast climate benefits.

“Cutting SLCP is the best way to reduce impacts over the next 50 years and beyond,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Maximum mitigation of SLCPs, using existing technologies, can cut the rate of warming in half and sea level rise by a quarter,” added Zaelke. “The ability to slow the rate of warming makes fast mitigation of SLCPs one of the best adaptation strategies for vulnerable societies and ecosystems.”

Cutting SLCPs provides considerable long-term mitigation according to the new paper, well beyond the current century and even beyond the next century. See Fig. 1 below.

The paper notes that CO2, on the other hand, has a very long lifetime, with more than 20% of emissions remaining in the atmosphere for thousands to tens of thousands of years. This means that the bulk of the benefits from slowing CO2 emissions will be observable only over the longer term, beyond the next few decades. A recent study calculates that aggressive mitigation of SLCPs could prevent as much as 0.6°C of additional warming by 2050, compared to 0.1°C from CO2 cuts alone. A parallel strategy that cuts both CO2 and SLCPs can avoid as much as 2.6°C by 2100. This combined mitigation provides the greatest chance of keeping global temperature increases below 1.5°C over pre-Industrial temperatures for the next 30 to 40 years and below 2°C through 2100. (See IGSD’s press release on this study.)

The new Science paper notes that pressure to reduce CO2 is the key driver for developing climate friendly technologies, and that reducing such pressure can slow innovation and lead to higher emissions and a warmer climate.

According to Ramanathan, an author of the study and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at Scripps and UNESCO Professor at TERI University, New Delhi:

“The message is clear: We need to mitigate both CO2 and SLCPs. SLCPs contribute about 40% of the total mitigation even at 2200, about two centuries from now. Had we included HFCs mitigation, the SLCPs mitigation would be even larger.”

Some steps to reduce CO2 will also reduce SLCPs, including for example, black carbon and methane reductions from cuts in fossil fuel production and use. Today’s paper notes that “efforts to reduce BC emissions can be undertaken through air pollution measures whose main focus is on public health, such as regulations on diesel exhaust or the promotion of cleaner cooking technologies. HFCs can be regulated through the Montreal protocol. Such strategies have already proven to be effective.”

The paper cautions that SLCPs should not be traded off for CO2, as is currently the case in the climate treaty, where reductions in methane and HFCs can be traded for credit toward achieving CO2 emissions reduction goals. “Widespread trading between different greenhouse gases, especially when it may affect markets for low-CO2 technologies, risks committing our children and grand-children to even greater climate impacts in the more distant future.”

“In the long run, given the significant amount of CO2 that remains in the atmosphere for thousands to tens of thousands of year, even aggressive strategies to reduce emissions of both SLCPs and CO2 won’t be sufficient,” said Zaelke. “We’ll also have to remove a good deal of the CO2 already in the atmospheres on a decades to century time scale, using carbon removal strategies, starting with the protection and expansion of forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other ecosystems that use photosynthesis to store carbon in biomass and soil.”

See IGSD’s Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants here

See IGSD’s Primer on Hydrofluorocarbons here

Figure 1

Climate temperature response to reductions in emissions of CO2, SLCPs, and both.


Here is a remarkable fact about global warming: It might be twice as bad right now were it not for a treaty negotiated by a conservative American president, for an entirely different purpose, based on motives no one has ever quite understood.

That treaty is known, in shorthand, as the Montreal Protocol. Its formal purpose is to save the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, which protects the planet and its people from debilitating levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

The negotiations on behalf of the United States, in the 1980s, were carried out by the Reagan administration. And the treaty is turning out to be one of the more momentous steps Ronald Reagan took as president.

The Montreal Protocol is widely seen as the most successful global environmental treaty. It incorporates pragmatic, business-friendly principles that have allowed it to operate smoothly for more than two decades, achieving its goals — and then some — with little controversy.

To those paying attention, all of that has been known for years. Now comes a new piece of science, though, saying that the treaty may be even more important in limiting global warming than we thought. It is a timely paper, since a proposal is on the table to rejigger the treaty in a way that could help us still more in slowing the rate of climate change.

The story began in the 1970s when two scientists working together in California, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland, realized that a commonly used group of industrial chemicals posed a frightening hazard. The chlorofluorocarbons, used in refrigerators and air-conditioners and as propellants in products like hair spray, were drifting into the upper atmosphere and breaking down in ways that were thinning the ozone layer.

In short, Dr. Molina and Dr. Rowland had discovered a global environmental emergency. Continued use of the chemicals threatened society with huge increases in skin cancer, damage to crops and many other problems.

The work would eventually merit the Nobel Prize, but that did not prevent a tortuous political battle over the issue. Some of the same people who deny global warming now took money from the chemical industry back then to challenge the science. But the stunning announcement by British scientists in 1985 that an actual hole in the ozone layer had appeared over Antarctica caught the public imagination in a way few scientific discoveries do, ramping up the demands for action.

Mr. Reagan, with his zeal for deregulation and his conservative business principles, might have been expected to fight the idea of a global treaty. That is exactly what many of his closest aides wanted him to do. In the end, he rejected their advice and backed it, vigorously.

Why? One idea is that Mr. Reagan himself had had skin cancer, and allowed a concern for public health to triumph over ideology. Eli Lehrer, the head of a Washington think tank called the R Street Institute and a longtime Reagan admirer, offered me a simpler theory: that the man truly loved nature. He was never happier than when riding horses and chopping wood. Perhaps the science of the ozone hole just spooked him. We know it spooked Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister and Reagan ally, who had been a research chemist in her early life.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer entered into force on Jan. 1, 1989, and in the years since, it has been used to phase out nearly 100 dangerous gases.

Now, the wheel of history often turns on chance, and here is one of the great coincidences of our time: Many of the substances that destroy the ozone layer also happen to be exceedingly powerful greenhouse gases.

If production had been allowed to continue, a batch of scientific studies show, the planet would most likely be warming a lot faster than it is. The latest of these studies came out only a few weeks ago. Led by Francisco Estrada of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, the paper suggests that the slowdown in global warming that has occurred over the past 15 years is a direct result, at least in part, of the success of the Montreal Protocol.

In fact, the evidence suggests the protocol has done far more to limit global warming than the better-known treaty adopted for that purpose, the Kyoto Protocol.

Could it do still more?

It turns out the gases phased out under the Montreal Protocol are being replaced by another set of chemicals, hydrofluorocarbons. They do not destroy the ozone layer, but they are potent at causing global warming.

Prodded by small island countries concerned about drowning on a warming planet, nations are considering an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase out the worst chemicals in this group in favor of new ones that are safer for the climate.

For years, big developing countries have been holding out, for they have important industries tied to hydrofluorocarbons. But China came on board over the summer, and the Obama administration is cajoling the last big holdout, India, at this very moment.

It seems to be a matter of time before the deal gets done, and if it does, the projections say we will gain substantial climate benefits this century. Once again, amid all the paralysis over climate change, the Montreal Protocol will have proved to be the little treaty that could.

Durwood Zaelke, who heads a Washington advocacy group called the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development that is pushing for the treaty amendment, told me he drew a simple lesson from all this: However overwhelming global warming may seem at times, we are not powerless in the face of it.

Read the original article in The New York Times here.

Report Calls for Early Warning Systems to Anticipate Changes

Cutting short-lived climate pollutants is most effective way to slow warming in near term

Washington, DC, 4 December 2013 – The world is already beginning to pass tipping points for abrupt, catastrophic, and irreversible changes to the global climate according to a new 200-page report released yesterday by the US National Academy of Sciences. Abrupt climate change, unlike gradual changes such as steadily increasing global temperatures, can cause rapid changes to physical, biological, and human systems in a matter of years or decades, far too fast for humans to properly adapt.

The report, which assesses the current state of scientific knowledge regarding possible thresholds for abrupt climate change, found that some projected tipping points such as the melting of arctic permafrost, are unlikely to occur in this century, others such as the collapse of Arctic summer sea-ice are already underway and accelerating. Other tipping points like the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could occur in this century, but are not yet well understood enough to predict. The report concludes that while large uncertainties still remain, the world is not doing enough to prepare and anticipate for these types of threats, and calls for more research and the development of an early warning system that could give humanity a few critical years to prepare for the worst impacts of abrupt climate change.

Study co-author Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University compared the threat of abrupt climate change effects to the random danger of drunk drivers. “You can’t see it coming, so you can’t prepare for it. The faster it is, the less you see it coming, the more it costs,” Alley told The Associated Press. “If you see the drunk driver coming, you can get out of the way.”

“This should be a wakeup call for the world,” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “No amount of continued warming can be considered safe when we have no idea when we’ll pass these thresholds for irreversible and abrupt climate change.”

“The best way to slow down warming, particularly in the critically vulnerable Arctic is to cut black carbon soot and other short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs” added Zaelke. “Cutting black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants can cut the rate of warming in the Arctic by two thirds. It also will save millions of lives every year that are now lost to these climate pollutants.”

“We have the technologies and the existing laws in most cases to cut the short-lived pollutants today,” concluded Zaelke. “This includes phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol and using other complementary initiatives such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, the only global effort focusing on these pollutants.”

IGSD’s Primer on SLCPs is here

IGSD’s Primer on HFCs is here

Washington DC, November 21, 2013: A paper published today in Nature Climate Change confirms earlier studies finding that immediate and aggressive cuts in both carbon dioxide (CO2) and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are necessary to maintain global temperatures below 2°C through the end of the century.

This confirms earlier research by Dr. V. Ramanathan of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. Drew Shindell at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and others that mitigation of three of the four SLCPs, black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone, would lead to about 0.5 to 0.6°C of avoided warming, but without aggressive and immediate cuts in CO2 temperatures would continue to rise through the end of century and beyond.

“The benefits of cutting SLCPs are considerably greater when the calculations include the near term benefits from reducing the other SLCP, hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used as refrigerants, as this could avoid as much as an additional 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century,” according to Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is probably the single biggest, fastest, and cheapest piece of mitigation in the near-term and through 2100, but HFCs unfortunately were not include in this study.”

“The real challenge for both CO2 and SLCPs is not the science, but rather the politics of how to get the reductions,” Zaelke said. “There is a profound difference between knowing what to do and figuring out how to get it done.”

“California, for example, reduced its black carbon emissions by 90%, according to a recent study lead by Dr. Ramanathan,” Zaelke added. This contrasts with the 58% increase in CO2 since 1990 reported this week by the Global Carbon Budget. (1990 is the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty.)

“The politics of SLCP mitigation are encouraging,” Zaelke said, “in part because of the significant collateral benefits for health and agriculture, and in part because they can be reduced with existing technologies and in most cases with existing laws and institutions, without waiting for the UN climate negotiations to conclude a new treaty that is expected to come into force in 2020.”

The new study notes the collateral benefits from SLCP mitigation, and it also mentions the argument that success with the SLCPs can build political momentum for CO2 mitigation.

“The SLCP advocates know that CO2 mitigation is essential, but also know that we’re at COP 19 and CO2 emissions have been going in the wrong direction for these past 19 years.”

“We need to be more sophisticated politically, so we can learn how to solve the parts of the climate problem that we can solve today, while we continue to develop both the technologies and the political will to solve other parts,” argued Zaelke.

The new paper conclude that “Immediate action on SLCPs might potentially ‘buy time’ for adaptation by reducing near-term warming,” a point of tremendous importance to all the vulnerable peoples and places already suffering climate impacts.”


For more information on the importance of simultaneous cuts in CO2 and SLPCs see IGSD’s Primer on SLCPs here.

See also IGSD’s Primer on HFCs here.

The California black carbon study is here.

Growing global network for fast climate mitigation is bright spot in otherwise discouraging discussions

Special attention being given to HFC refrigerants

Warsaw, Poland, 21 November 2013 – Amid a desultory UN climate negotiation session in Warsaw this week and last—the 19th Meeting of the Parties—one strategy emerged with wide-spread support. The strategy can cut the rate of climate change in half through 2050, and can open the door for more ambitious mitigation by all countries, including mitigation of long-lived carbon dioxide.

The strategy is to reduce “short-lived climate pollutants”, or SLCPs, which include black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, the major component of smog, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used primarily as refrigerants.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) concluded its High-Level Assembly today, as dozens of ministers and other senior climate officials took a break from the climate negotiations, where there were more walk-outs than agreements, to join one another in pledging to expand their fast-action climate mitigation agenda, to undertake new mitigation actions, and to provide new funding to implement the efforts to deliver immediate climate protection.

“Many efforts talk about what should be done, but the CCAC just does it,” said Romina Picolotti, former Secretary of the Environment for Argentina and President of the Centre for Human Rights and Environment. “The CCAC’s fast-action approach is a model the world needs to pay close attention to.”

Ministers and other leaders of 42 countries and organizations of the CCAC celebrated their successes and pledged to enhance further fast-action to reduce SLCPs. The CCAC’s 10 action-oriented initiatives are tackling many of the leading causes of near-term climate change, while also preventing premature deaths and crop damage. Morocco and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development attended as observers.

During the meeting, the United States and Sweden pledged to provide funding next year for a new methane pay-for-performance fund managed by the World Bank. Germany also announced support for the fund and suggested it be enlarged it to include HFCs. The GEF also pledged to increase support for SLCPs.

The CCAC is the only international organization dedicated to reducing SLCPs, and the only international organization implementing a fast-action agenda to produce climate mitigation and reduce current impacts, in advance of the 2015 deadline for a new climate treaty that the UN climate negotiators hope to produce by COP 21 in Paris, to go into effect by 2020.

“The strategy to reduce SLCPs is one the most important development in climate policy in the last several years, providing fast results rather than slow rhetoric,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, from Warsaw. “The SLCP strategies recognize that climate change is a not one monolithic problem but rather a package that can be unpacked, with some pieces ready to be solved immediately, including the SLCPs, using existing technologies and existing laws and institutions in most cases.”

One of the SLCPs, HFCs, is receiving extra attention in Warsaw, where the 19th year of climate negotiations is continuing the tectonic process where all issues are clumped and tend to move together—or more often fail to move together. The HFCs have emerged as a signature issue with three key benefits: pre-2020 mitigation of HFCs can help close the emissions gap that remains after the Copenhagen Pledges, HFCs can provide much larger long-term mitigation through 2050 and even 2100, where they can avoid up to 0.5C of warming, and success with HFCs can provide critical political momentum for COP 21 in Paris in 2015 by showing the value of concrete action.

During the current two-week negotiating session in Warsaw there have been at least 17 events focusing on SLCPs, including an event this week moderated by Zaelke and co-sponsored by Colombia, IGSD, Earthjustice, and the Bellona Foundation.

CCAC press release

IGSD’s SLCP Primer; and IGSD’s HFC Primer

Slow down in global warming linked to phase out of CFCs, and methane reductions

Earlier pauses in warming from Great Depression, World Wars

Washington, D.C., 11 November 2013 Scientists using sophisticated statistical methods show in a paper in Nature Geoscience that the successful phase out of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, by the Montreal Protocol slowed climate change, contributing to a lower rate of global warming since the early 1990s.

“The statistical analysis confirms that the Montreal Protocol is not only the world’s most successful environmental treaty, but also the most successful climate treaty,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The treaty not only solved the world’s first great threat to the global atmosphere—the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer—it also has solved a significant part of climate change, as the same chemicals that destroy the ozone layer are also powerful greenhouse gases.”

“The Montreal Protocol is now nearing a consensus on an amendment to phase down CFC replacements called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that are super greenhouse gases,” Zaelke added.

Climate vulnerable island states have been advocating the HFC phase down under the Montreal Protocol for the past six years, and more than 100 other countries are supporting this strategy, including China, South Africa, the European Union, and the United States.

“There are few climate policies with this degree of support,” said Zaelke. “India is really the only country now needed to complete the consensus to phase down HFCs. India’s agreement will let the Montreal Protocol take the single biggest, fastest bite out of the climate problem.” A recent paper by Yangyang Xu at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Zaelke, and others calculates that phasing down HFCs could avoid up to a half a degree Celsius of global average temperature rise by 2100. (See IGSD Press Release on HFC paper.)

The new paper by Francisco Estrada and others analyzed temperature data, together with trends in emissions of greenhouse gases including CFCs, methane, and carbon dioxide. They identified other human causes of the pauses in warming, including reductions in methane emissions from changes in agricultural practices, the Great Depression, and World War I and II.

The Estrada paper concludes that “reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are effective in slowing the rate of warming in the short term.”

“Knowing how much the Montreal Protocol has already done to protect the climate and how much it can do in the future by phasing down HFCs should give us a sense of urgent optimism that we can still meet the challenge of climate change,” Zaelke said.

The abstract to the article, Statistically derived contributions of diverse human influences to twentieth-century temperature changes, by Francisco Estrada, Pierre Perron & Benjamín Martínez-López, is here.

The IGSD Primer on HFCs is here.

International Cooperative Initiatives Are Key Gap-Closing Strategy

Washington DC, November 5, 2013 – The gap continues to grow between emissions pledges that countries have made and the emissions levels needed by 2020 to keep global temperature rise below 2° (or 1.5°) C by 2100.

But closing the gap is still possible according to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report released today, ahead of the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw next week. Closing the gap requires fast, focused, and firm international and nation action including though “international cooperative initiatives” (ICIs).

According to the report, developed by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, even if nations meet their current climate pledges, the gap is likely to be 8 to 12 billion tones of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2-eq) per year.

The report calculates that as much as 20 GtCO2-eq per year could be reduced at a marginal cost of $50-100 UDS per tonne. An additional 1-2 GtCO2-eq per year could be gained by applying strict national emission accounting rules, and implementing the maximum reductions already pledged, without conditions, could gain another 2-3 GtCO2-eq per year.

First published in 2009, the annual UNEP Emissions Gap Report compares the gap between projected greenhouse gas emissions growth based on national emissions reductions pledges, and emissions levels that climate models tell us we need to meet to maintain global temperatures below 2°C (or 1.5° C) by the end of the century.

In addition to national-level action, this year is the first time the report looked at possible mitigation from ICIs, such as the Montreal Protocol and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. These ICIs have the potential to not only support existing pledges, but go beyond them, for example ICIs could deliver as much as 2 GtCO2-eq emissions reductions globally through actions to improve energy efficiency.

“Enlisting ICIs to support further international and national climate action is a brilliant strategy, that can show the world that fast climate mitigation is achievable,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, and a contributing author of the GAP report. “Actions such as addressing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, will help build the momentum, ambition, and urgent optimism that we need to create a strong climate treaty by 2015. With the 19th annual UN climate negotiations opening next week in Warsaw, we need all the optimism that we can get,” he added.

“Addressing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the biggest, fastest, and possibly cheapest mitigation option that we have available to use today,” added Zaelke. “It could prevent as much as two billion tones of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2020, and 100 billion by 2050. This is a significant part of the 2020 emission gap.”

Looking specifically at thirteen major emitting countries, the UNEP GAP report found that five: Australia, China, the EU, India, and Russia, are on track to meet their pledges, another five: Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., could meet their pledges with some additional effort, and not enough information was available to track emissions in Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. The report notes, however, that a number of countries such as the U.S., Mexico, and South Korea have implemented new climate policies that could bring them on track by 2020. The report cautioned that meeting existing country pledges would not close the gap, and if countries do not follow through with current national policies, the 2020 gap could be even larger.

“Addressing climate change will not come without cost,” said Zaelke. “But it will not be as costly as the human and economic damages we will suffer by not taking action.”

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

IGSD’s Primer on HFCs is here.

Washington DC, November 3, 2013 – Cutting short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can significantly reduce warming in vulnerable ice and snow covered areas of the world such as the Arctic and Himalayas, known as the cryosphere, while saving millions of lives and protecting ecosystems, according to a new scientific study released today.

The report by the World Bank and the International Climate Cryosphere Initiative calculates the impacts of climate change in cryosphere regions around the globe including the Arctic, Himalayas, Andes and East Africa, and describes which actions – in addition to cuts in carbon dioxide emissions – can slow these changes. The cryosphere regions are warming at more than twice the global average rate, which increases melting and sea-level rise, and increases the risk of self-amplifying feedbacks that could trigger abrupt and catastrophic climate change.

According to the report, prepared by 221 researchers from around the world, cutting SLPCs, which include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFC refrigerants, would provide near-term benefits in every glaciated region of the world. Implementing 14 measures targeting methane and black carbon could prevent as much as a full degree Celsius of additional warming in the Arctic by 2050, preventing up to 40 percent of projected summer sea ice loss and 25 percent of springtime snow cover loss compared to business as usual emissions. Reductions in emissions from diesel engines, open field and forest burning, and wood stoves will have a significant impact on the Arctic, while reducing emissions from the burning of biomass and coal for residential cooking and heating will have the largest impact on the Himalayas.

“The cryosphere is changing fast as a result of climate change, it is changing today, and those changes bring increased risk to ecosystems and human societies,” says Pam Pearson, Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, who produced the report with the World Bank. “If warming continues unabated, the risks from continuing sea-level rise, flooding and water resource disruption rise dramatically. This report makes clear that slowing cryosphere warming is an issue of global concern. Also, that action to cut SLCPs must take place in concert with ambitious efforts to cut long-lived greenhouse gases.”

By protecting glaciers and snow pack, SLCP reductions could also cut the near-term projected decrease in the Amazon River flow by as much as half, and prevent up to half a meter or more of sea-level rise by 2050, according to earlier research.

“Fast cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary to stabilize long-term temperatures, but in the near term, we can cut the rate of climate change in half by cutting black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFC refrigerants. Reducing these climate pollutants is the only way to protect the world’s vulnerable people and places in the near term,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

According to the World Health Organization, indoor, outdoor and tropospheric ozone air pollution kills more than six million people combined every year (see IGSD 8 March press release). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a leaked draft report, projects that climate change could reduce global food production by 2 percent while demand is expected to increase by 14 percent every decade this century.

“We have the technologies and the existing laws in most cases to cut the short-lived pollutants today,” Zaelke added. “This includes phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol and using other complementary initiatives such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, the only global effort focusing on these pollutants.”

“Fast success on this second front in the climate battle will provide critical political momentum for a successful climate treaty in 2015,” Zaelke said.

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

Led by African and small island states, nations near consensus on bringing HFCs into Ozone Treaty

Bangkok, 25 October 2013—The Parties to the Montreal Protocol continued their steady march towards phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under that treaty this week in Bangkok by reconvening the Discussion Group on HFC Management and broadening its mandate to consider the recent international agreements calling for the treaty to phase down HFCs, including the agreement by the G-20 nations and six observer states last month in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The writing is clearly on the wall,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “A few countries are still trying to delay the final agreement, but it’s now clear this is a losing strategy and that the Montreal Protocol will be used to phase down HFCs.”

Although India and Saudi Arabia blocked attempts to open formal discussions on two proposals to address HFCs—one by Micronesia, Morocco and the Maldives, the other by Canada, Mexico and the United States—the groundswell of support for using the Montreal Protocol to undertake the global phase down of HFCs called for in the Rio + 20 outcome last year and reiterated in recent high-level agreements continues to build.

Other countries that formerly opposed agreement on HFCs in the Montreal Protocol are softening their stance and offering constructive advice on the mechanics of the potential deal to ensure that their national interests are accounted for in the negotiations.

Significantly, the Africa Group, including South Africa, announced its support for “formal negotiations to enable the amendment process.”

Noting the “persistence” of proposal proponents and their concern about a rise in greenhouse gases, the delegate from Jordan called the proposals “logical and well understood” and supported continuation of discussions “in order to develop the dialogue between Parties.”

In support of the ongoing deliberations, the Parties tasked the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel to provide a detailed report on HFC alternatives. They also agreed to convene a workshop at their next meeting to sort out the technical, financial and legal details that will help pave the way to final agreement on an amendment.

“The world should welcome this emerging win for the climate system,” Zaelke added.  “It will not only prevent billions of tons of unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, it will also demonstrate the practical value of disaggregating the massive climate challenge into discrete and manageable pieces.”

The 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol that took place in Bangkok this week comes one month after G-20 leaders announced support for initiatives that are complementary to efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while retaining HFCs within the scope of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for controlling emissions.

HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the US, China, India, and many other countries.

The G-20 Leaders’ Declaration is here.

IGSD’s Primer on HFCs is here.

Black carbon GWP included for first time, at double previous estimates

GWP for methane also increased by as much as 30%

Targeted SLCP mitigation strategies can deliver more climate benefits than previously thought

Washington, DC, 2 October 2013 — The climate threat posed by short-lived climate pollutants was just upgraded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) in its Fifth assessment published this week. When feedbacks are included, the global warming potential (GWP) of methane, the number two climate warming gas, was increased by as much as 30% over estimates from 2007 and 60% over 2001. And for the first time the IPCC includes a GWP for black carbon.

Confirming an earlier multi-year assessment this year, the IPCC estimates that over a 100-year timespan black carbon is 900 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. While the previous IPCC assessment did not include numbers for the GWP of black carbon, calculations based on the data provided would have produced a GWP of 460 over a 100-year timespan, about half the new number. Because of its short lifetime in the atmosphere, black carbon is 3,200 time more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timespan.

The GWP for methane was increased, from 25 to 28 over a 100-year timespan and from 72 to 84 over a 20-year timespan. When carbon-climate feedbacks are taken into account, the 100-year GWP of methane increases to a punishing 34 times that of carbon dioxide. Methane is a growing source of emissions in many countries including the United States due to increased use of natural gas for energy.

Both methane and black carbon are part of a group of pollutants, along with tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), known as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) because they clear out of the atmosphere in a matter of days to a decade and a half. Aggressively cutting SLCPs has the potential to avoid as much as 0.6°C of warming by mid-century and as much as 1.5°C by 2100.

“Even before the new IPCC assessment, we knew that cutting these climate pollutants could cut warming in half and by two-thirds in the vulnerable Arctic for many decades,” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Now we know that this strategy is even more important than we first thought.”

Because three SLCPs are potent air pollutants, cutting them can save millions of lives every year, while significantly increasing crop yields, making such efforts important for promoting sustainable development. In South Asia, for example, air pollution is the leading preventable cause of disease, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization.

Zaelke added, “Rapid cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary to stabilize long-term temperatures, but in the near-term, aggressively cuts in SLCPs can provide fast benefits for climate, health, and food security benefits, particularly in the critical vulnerable regions that are already suffering some of the worst impacts of climate change.”

The IPCC AR5 is here.

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