A rare note of harmony resonated at the climate summit in New York when partner countries of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) agreed to an ambitious action plan to deal with greenhouses gases which are more powerful at trapping heat than CO2. While cutting CO2 emissions is the only way to mitigate climate change in the long term, short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) have always escaped attention in climate negotiations due to the overwhelming levels of CO2.
CCAC has propagated mitigation measures that will help limit the increase in temperatures due to global warming to just up to 0.6°C by 2050 and, thereby, prevent the dire consequences of an extreme 4 to 6 °C rise. With delay in actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the cut in emissions of SLCPs will help avoid a dangerous rise in sea levels and curb global warming.
On September 23, CCAC approved five strong measures presented at the climate summit:
Oil and gas methane partnership
CCAC launched a new partnership to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced by the oil and gas sector. In another voluntary industry-led initiative, Saudi Aramco, the national petroleum and natural gas company of Saudi Arabia, announced the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative on behalf of other national and international oil and gas companies.
Reducing SLCP emissions in cities from municipal solid waste (methane and black carbon)
Solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane (11 per cent of global methane emissions). This sector is also a source of black carbon, commonly known as soot which arises when waste is burned and transported in fuel inefficient heavy-duty vehicles.
Global Green Freight Action Plan (black carbon)
This plan aims to identify ways in which black carbon and Particulate Matter (PM) emissions can be curtailed in different regions of the world with intense freight activity. The transport sector contributes to approximately 22 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. Heavy-duty vehicles used in freight transportation have a substantial impact on climate and air quality.
Phasing down climate potent HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons)
Supporters of the joint statement to phase down HFCs have agreed to promote climate friendly alternatives. Apart from the statement, the private sector also established the Global Cold Food Chain Council and the Global Refrigerant Management Initiative, with the aim to reduce global emissions by 30 to 50 per cent in the next decade.
The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, a coalition of leading US HFC manufacturers and consumers, also presented a four-point action plan to lower HFC emissions. (The same alliance and other private sector participants met at the White House a week earlier and vowed to use cleaner alternatives to HFCs that will improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions by up to 80 per cent by 2050).
CCAC input to the Action Statement for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition
CCAC’s agriculture initiative introduced efforts to deal with SLCPs from livestock, manure management, paddy rice production and open agricultural burning.
The reduction in all SLCP emissions is promising because technologies are already available to cut their emissions. It may be easier than reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which are more pervasive as most of our energy needs are met by burning fossil fuels.
At an assembly hosted by CCAC, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "You are helping to accelerate political momentum on climate change and catalyse ambitious action on the ground. The coalitions you have built among the private sector, finance, civil society, research and other institutions can help to build a new world of collaboration and high standards.”
CCAC was established in 2012 after decades of an excruciatingly slow pace of global climate talks. Its members include 43 countries and 53 international, scientific and trade organisations.