Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

To Reduce Temperature in the Near-Term Two Strategies Beyond CO2 Are Key

Countries must do more beyond CO2 to meet carbon-neutrality goals by mid-century

08 July 2022, Washington, DC— Curtailing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dominates the focus of climate mitigation efforts. However, the latest research has confirmed carbon dioxide mitigation alone has only marginal results in near-term temperature reduction. A new study, co-authored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institutes for Science and Development, and the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, has identified the two most effective mitigation strategies to limit near-term warming beyond CO2:

  • Reducing the other non-CO2 super climate pollutants— hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and black carbon; and
  • Promoting targeted nature-based solutions (NbS) that safeguard and enhance irrecoverable carbon sinks, such as intact forests, peatlands, and mangrove forests.

Published on 23 June 2022 in Advances in Climate Change Research, the authors emphasized that while it is critical to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions to stabilize climate in the longer term, more must be done to avoid warming in the critical next twenty to thirty years. This is the only way we have a chance of slowing self-reinforcing climate feedbacks, and avoiding dangerous irreversible climate tipping points.

The study finds fast action to reduce non-CO2 emissions, particularly HFCs, methane, and black carbon, can avoid up to 0.6 °C of warming by 2050, within the timeline for fulfillment of countries’ mid-century carbon neutrality goals. More specifically, quickly reducing emissions of HFCs, methane, and black carbon could avoid 0.1 °C, 0.3 °C, and 0.2 °C of warming respectively by 2050.

Additionally, promoting targeted NbS that safeguard and enhance irrecoverable carbon sinks, such as intact forests, peatlands, and mangrove forests, helps protect the climate benefits derived from greenhouse gas emissions mitigation strategies. Intact forests are particularly important for sequestering carbon in the near term.

“We need to move with lightning speed to win the climate sprint to 2030 by reducing non-CO2 climate pollutants like methane and protecting our carbon sinks. But we also must continue running the marathon to decarbonize and reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” said IGSD President and study co-author, Durwood Zaelke.

The study provides recommends that national and subnational governments adopt policies such as integrating non-CO2 mitigation strategies into national and subnational carbon neutrality policies, and protecting intact forest sinks through promotion of proforestation and moving away from burning forest biomass for energy.

At the international level, the study recommends the deployment of multiple treaty platforms to advance international collaboration on the reduction of non-CO2 emissions and promotion of targeted NbS to protect and enhance natural sinks, including the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and its Kigali Amendment, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“This is an emergency. We need to tackle all these strategies at full speed.” Zaelke added.

The paper, Fast action on short-lived climate pollutants and nature-based solutions to help countries meet carbon neutrality goals, is available here.

An English summary of the paper by the authors is here.

A Chinese summary of the paper from Advances in Climate Change Research is here.