In February 2012, Canada, along with Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, the United States, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), a new international voluntary initiative aimed at advancing efforts to reduce SLCPs in ways that protect the environment and public health, promote food and energy security, and address near-term climate change. The membership of the Coalition is growing reflecting the importance that both developed and developing countries attach to action in this area. The G8 countries endorsed the Coalition and agreed to join its efforts at the May 2012 Camp David Summit.
Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) are substances such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone, methane and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have a relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide (CO2) and other longer-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Although their life-spans are short relative to CO2, they are potent global warmers. The lifetime of these substances is an important consideration for addressing climate change. Even if emissions of long-lived GHGs were to cease, atmospheric levels would not decline significantly for a long time as the processes that remove such substances from the atmosphere are slow. In contrast, atmospheric levels of short-lived substances respond relatively quickly to changes in emissions since they are removed quickly from the atmosphere.
It is estimated that, unmitigated, SLCPs will contribute about half of the climate warming effect from current anthropogenic emissions over the next couple of decades. Reducing emissions of short-lived substances therefore offers an opportunity to influence the rate of near-term global warming. Interest in mitigating SLCPs is also driven by concern for the rapid rate of Arctic warming. Polar regions such as the Arctic are especially sensitive to the effects of black carbon as there is an additional warming effect from deposition of black carbon onto snow and ice.
In addition to their contribution to near-term climate change, ozone and black carbon are air pollutants and key components of smog which causes respiratory and heart diseases. Further, ozone contributes to agricultural crop damage. As a result reducing emissions of SLCPs has the potential to bring both near-term climate benefits and important positive co-benefits for air quality, agricultural productivity and human health.
The Coalition has identified five areas to take immediate action:
A dedicated world-class Science Advisory Panel to provide scientific advice to the Coalition will be set up in the coming months
The Coalition will also undertake work in support of the development of National Action Plans and to identify how addressing SLCPs can be financed in novel and creative ways.
A Trust Fund, managed by the UNEP-hosted Secretariat, has been established to support the Coalition's efforts. To date, the Government of Canada has pledged $3 million to the Trust Fund, and is delivering and additional $7 million in projects that support the long-term mitigation of SLCPs in developing countries under Canada's $1.2 billion fast-start financing contribution.
Canada's domestic action on SCLPs
Members of the CCAC are committed to reducing SLCPs both abroad and at home. Several of the Government of Canada's existing and forthcoming measures to address air pollution emissions also impact SLCPs. These include air emission standards in place for new engines in heavy-duty diesel vehicles, recent amendments to phase in more stringent air emission standards for off-road diesel engines, and the national Air Quality Management System (AQMS) currently being finalized.
Canada is also taking concerted action on SLCPs at the international level through a number of other multilateral initiatives, including the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as well as efforts under the Arctic Council and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Action on SLCPs is one element of Canada's broader climate change agenda and will complement, not replace, global actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, particularly those under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Due to the nature of SLCPs, combining efforts on SLCPs with actions to address carbon dioxide emissions can greatly increase our chances of meeting the goal of limiting global average temperature increase to 2°C while resulting in positive near term benefits for human health and well-being.
For more information on the Clean Air and Climate Coalition, please visit the CCAC website.