Landmark Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Celebrates First Anniversary
Nairobi, Kenya – The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow. Launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with an initial group of six country partners and the United Nations Environment Programme, the Coalition has quickly grown to 55 partners, including 27 countries, the European Commission, as well as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and eighteen NGOs.
“In its first year the Coalition has been brilliant in developing a spirit of urgent optimism, a spirit that is critical for solving the daunting problem of climate change,” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, one of the NGO members. “And it’s already working on plans for taking its strategies to the scale it needs to meet the bold challenge of cutting the rate of warming in half for the next 40 years, with the World Bank pledging billions of new dollars for their efforts. The Coalition is a rare climate success story.”
The CCAC is the first-ever global effort specifically dedicated to reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs include black carbon (soot), recently recognized as the second most powerful climate pollutant after carbon dioxide, methane and ground-level ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used as refrigerants and to make insulating foams.
To address these pollutants, the Coalition has undertaken a set of fast-action initiatives: reducing methane from urban landfills and from the oil and gas industry; reducing black carbon emissions from brick kilns and from heavy duty diesel vehicles and engines; promoting alternatives to HFCs; scaling up finance to reduce all SLCPs; and developing SLCP National Action Plans. The Coalition is also developing additional proposals to address open burning of biomass and pollution from cookstoves.
Fast action to reduce SLCPs has the potential to cut the rate of climate change in half, slowing global temperature rise by up to ~0.6°C by 2050, while preventing 2.4 million air pollution-related deaths per year, and avoiding around 30 million tonnes of crop losses annually. Reductions of SLCPs are complementary to reductions of carbon dioxide emissions and can often be achieved simultaneously. If large-scale reductions of both SLCPs and carbon dioxide are undertaken immediately, there is still a high probability of keeping the increase in global temperature to less than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial temperature for the next 30 years and below the 2°C guardrail for the next 60 to 90 years.
“The success of the CCAC shows that more and more countries are now recognizing the multiple, cost-effective benefits that swift, coordinated action on SLCPs can deliver,” said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, who put the CCAC at the top of his list of UNEP’s accomplishments in 2012. “UNEP has partnered with researchers for over ten years to bring the science of short-lived climate pollutants to the fore. This research clearly shows that action on SLCPs can deliver important near-term climate gains, and contribute to the achievement of health- and food security-related goals,” added Mr. Steiner, speaking from the UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi.
In addition to cutting the rate of global warming in half, reducing emissions of SLCPs is particularly beneficial for some of the most vulnerable and threatened regions on the planet, including the Arctic, which is warming at more than twice the global average rate, and setting off self-amplifying warming feedbacks, according to UNEP’s Year Book 2013 released this week. Addressing pollutants such as black carbon, which has especially powerful warming effects in regions of ice and snow, may be the most effective means of slowing and delaying imminent climate impacts in those regions in the near term.
IGSD has long been a champion of efforts to reduce HFCs, black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone, and serves as the NGO representative on the Coalition’s Steering Committee.
Representatives from ZSL’s Conservation and Living Collections teams on Thursday participated in the launch of the Reefs at Risk Revisited report launch.
In the 10 years since the first Reefs at Risk analysis, threats have increased by 30 percent. This includes recent impacts from climate change which causes rising ocean temperatures and coral bleaching.
The most immediate and direct threats arise from local sources, which currently threaten more than 60 percent of reefs (about 150,000 sq km of reefs). Local threats include overfishing, destructive fishing, coastal development and pollution.
Unless steps are taken to reduce local pressure and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90% by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.
The report identifies 27 nations most vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss in the world (of 108 reef countries assessed). The nine coun¬tries most vulnerable to the effects of coral reef degradation, due to high dependence on coral reefs and low adaptive capacity, are: Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji, and Indonesia.
The report makes 60 recommendations for action. ZSL’s coral reef conservation efforts respond to many of these, including supporting and implementing effective marine protected areas (in Chagos and the Philippines through Project Seahorse), building conservation and management capacity in coral reef nations (EDGE Corals, Project Seahorse), supporting the most vulnerable countries (e.g. Philippines through Project Seahorse) and influencing policy (Climate Change programme; GLOBE Action Plan for Coral Reefs).
The report was led by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, ICRAN, UNEP-WCMC, and GCRMN. One of the report’s authors, Dr Allison Perry, is a former member of the Project Seahorse team.
The full report can be downloaded at http://pdf.wri.org/reefs_at_risk_revisited.pdf
COMMENT: The Chinese as a people have somewhat of a mixed response to their environment – they recycle seemingly everything, with people whose job it is go through your rubbish – literally; Shanghai has a huge range of parks and is very green. The skyline above Shanghai was clear with blue skies during Expo 2010, but they are now grey again…. The big question is: can this new ‘economic powerhouse’ balance its needs and impacts – the needs of its people ‘now’ and needs of its future, as-yet-unborn generations and its environment – right!? Can China live sustainably…
In just two years, the idea of a “green economy”, with its links to sustainable development and poverty eradication, has gone from being an interesting idea to being one of the top two issues at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.
Many people may wonder whether the green economy is just pleasing jargon or a genuinely new pathway to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable 21st century. Is it a fundamental departure from the development models of the past that its advocates proclaim, or just another case of the emperor’s new environmental clothes?
Perhaps the answer can be found in some of the extraordinary transitions taking place in electricity and other energy sectors about the world. Many people, for example, scoff at the idea that solar power could be anything but a niche market for enthusiasts or a costly white elephant, over-hyped by environmental do-gooders. In 2002, one private equity fund estimated that annual installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays might reach 1.5 gigawatts (gW) by 2010. In fact, 17.5 gW was installed in 2010, up 130 percent from 2009. And PV installations have been forecast to increase further this year, by perhaps 20.5 gW, taking global capacity to about 50 gW – the equivalent of about 15 nuclear reactors.
All this is not happening only in developed economies like Germany, Spain and the United States, but in countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Morocco. Indeed, according to an estimate by IMS Market Research, more than 30 countries will be part of this emerging solar revolution by 2015.
None of this has come about by chance. Some countries have moved early to embrace the energy dimension of a green economy, and have introduced the necessary public policies and incentives. Considerable manufacturing capacity has been added, which has halved costs over the past two years. In fact, PV prices are set to halve again this year.
A nuclear power plant can take 10-15 years to build, and a coal-fired power station about five years. Mid-size solar plants of 5-10 negawatts, however, are now taking only about three months to get from the planning stage to construction. With the advent of smart grids and free-market pricing, solar PV seems well positioned to provide solutions that are quick to build and scalable.
The International Energy Agency estimates that, to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, about $33 billion in additional annual investments in the power sector will be needed. That sounds like a lot of money, especially in the wake of the economic and financial crisis that is still troubling large parts of the world. But new investment just in solar PV was about $89 billion in 2010. Multibillion-dollar investments also flowed into new wind farms, geothermal plants and a host of other renewable-energy technologies.
The green shoots of a green economy are emerging across the power sector, driven by concerns about climate change, air pollution and energy security – as well as by the desire to generate new kinds of competitive, employment-growing industries. They can also be seen in the growth of recycling industries in South Korea, or the way Indonesia is factoring forests into its social and economic planning. The challenge for Rio+20 is to agree on a range of forward-looking policies that can be deployed in part or in whole to accelerate all of this up.
At the UN Environment Program’s upcoming Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, we will launch a landmark contribution to this debate, with the release of A Transition to a Green Economy. The report analyzes how a global investment of 2 percent of global GDP in the green economy could unleash economic growth and positive social outcomes, while keeping humanity’s planetary footprint within sustainable boundaries.
In particular, the catalytic choices for 10 sectors – from agriculture, fisheries and forests to transport and buildings – are as relevant to developing as they are to developed countries. And they are equally relevant to State-led and more market-driven economies.
There will always be those who smile skeptically at the mere notion of a green economy and dismiss such far-reaching transitions. It is time to put the numbers on the table and show how advances in solar power alone are starting to prove them wrong.
The author is UN under-secretary general and UN Environment Program (UNEP) executive director. Project Syndicate.