UNEP/Short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs)
With CO2 or carbon dioxide emissions taking center stage at most climate change discussions, experts at Thursday's "Reducing short-lived pollutants to slow climate change while improving crop yields and health" meeting organized by the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), highlighted the importance of taking immediate action at the national level to reduce black carbon, methane and HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons. This would improve air quality, boost crop yields and health and mitigate climate change, they said.
These findings, based on contents found in the United Nations Environmental Program 2011 Synthesis Report, Near-Term Climate Protection and Air Benefit: Actions for controlling short-lived forcers, says that reducing black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane "will provide significant benefits through improved air quality and a slowing of near-term climate change."
Roy Lee from the Office of the Permanent Observer of the Asian African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) who chaired Thursday's expert-level discussions at the UN, noted that "black carbon and methane, both contribute to global warming and degrade air quality.
Black carbon is mainly soot emitted from diesel vehicles and other diesel fueled cooking and heating utilities used mostly in developing countries. Methane is emitted mostly from fossil fuel production and HFCs are intentionally made chemicals used to replace ozone-depleting substances such as CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, these are both greenhouse gasses.
Dr. Drew Shindell, Climate Scientist at NASA noted that "30-100 million crops are destroyed each year by ozone."
Master-degree candidates from the Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies explained that 5 major benefits would come from the reduction of black carbon, methane and HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons:
1. Reduction of black carbon to improve air quality could prevent a great number of premature deaths in Asia and Africa
2. Reducing the three pollutants offers a realistic opportunity to significantly reduce the rate of global warming over the next two to four decades, as a compliment strategy to carbon dioxide emissions reductions.
3. Fast action has the potential to avoid an estimated 2.4 million premature deaths annually from outdoor air pollutants by 2030.
4. Early and sustained action could slow the increase in near-term global warming by around 0.4 degrees Celsius by 2050, which would help the international community in meeting a target of keeping a temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius during the 21st century.
5. Fast action could help in avoiding annual losses from four major crops, such as wheat, rice, maize and soybean, of about 32 million tons per year
Experts explained that current national and international initiatives and funding have been put in place, among them is the " Climate and Clean Air Coalition's $15 million over two years formed by the US, Sweden, Ghana, Bangladesh, Mexico, Canada and UNEP, in order to develop national action plans on these three pollutants. Experts noted that this Coalition has the potential of increasing its funds as more members join. "The Green Climate Fund, projected to have $100 billion by 2020, is created for projects specifically in developing countries of which both methane and HFCs are covered under this fund."
However experts warned that essentially 8 more years would be required before a new climate change regime would be put into operation, calling for "immediate action at the national level to be taken in the interim to improve air quality, health and crop yields in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean."
Experts suggested applying stringent regulations to control HFC production and noted that appropriate language be included in the Zero Draft text for Rio+20, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development.