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Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), unlike carbon dioxide, only remain in the Earth’s atmosphere for a few years when emitted. But during that time, their potential to warm the atmosphere can be between 80 to 1,500 times greater than CO2, which makes reducing SLCP emissions as urgent as reducing CO2.
To accelerate action on SLCPs, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) brought leaders from around the world together for the Global Methane, Climate and Clean Air Forum in Washington, D.C., last week. The Forum focused on the theme “a call to fast action” to build up global ambition to rapidly reduce emissions from methane and other SLCPs, such as black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and tropospheric ozone. The meeting convened almost a thousand participants, with approximately half joining in virtually.
During the forum, participants heard from high-level officials and actors from both government and the private sector on a variety of themes focused around achieving fast climate action with respect to reducing SLCPs in the atmosphere. Sessions focused on, among others:
outlining high-level policy, political, and scientific arguments for global ambition and action on methane and other SLCPs and defining a path forward;
highlighting the actions of national policies in reducing SLCPs; and
setting out perspectives on SLCP finance, including in the private sector.
Following each day’s high-level panel discussions, participants convened in technical sessions, which allowed them to delve deeper into specific topics related to SLCP management and mitigation. These were split into six thematic areas, namely: science, planning, and cross-cutting issues; air quality; agriculture and food systems; waste and wastewater; coal; and oil and gas.
Tomás Carbonell, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and GMI Steering Committee Vice Chair, opened the Forum and welcomed participants by reminding them that the meeting’s theme is “a call to fast action.” He underlined that reducing methane is a clear “win-win” for the environment and the economy. Janet McCabe, Deputy Administrator, US EPA, discussed her country’s “whole of government” approach to emission reductions.
John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, US, highlighted a “new consensus” on the need to reduce methane and other SLCPs, and the Global Methane Pledge launched at the COP26 in 2021. He pointed to an upcoming Global Methane Assessment report, which notes that, without the Global Methane Pledge, methane emissions will increase by 2030. He stressed the need for “everyone—particularly government, industry, and banks—to join [the Pledge] in taking action.”
Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Executive Director, Ghana Environmental Protection Agency, highlighted that Ghana is aware of the risks of doing nothing and that implementing actions across sectors is a national priority. He noted that his country has committed to reducing methane emissions by 2030 and incorporating traditional knowledge in Ghana’s climate change plans. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, said Canada is committed to achieving its 2030 methane reduction pledge. Stressing a holistic approach based on science, he recognized that tackling methane is a global issue. Catherine Stewart, Canadian Climate Change Ambassador, underlined that Canada is proud of its methane reduction leadership. She noted Canada recently launched a methane strategy to reduce emissions by more than 35% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels, particularly for the gas, oil, agriculture, and waste sectors.
Everyone, including government, industry, and banks, must join in taking action on the Global Methane Pledge."John Kerry
Martina Otto, Head of Secretariat, CCAC, stated that joint efforts and methane action must be taken “right” now given the narrow window to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. She also reminded participants of several initiatives funded by the CCAC Trust Fund, especially on methane source sectors. She also announced the CCAC’s open Call for Proposals. Marcelo Mena, Global Methane Hub, pointed to collaborative ventures between Chile and Canada; the Race to Zero program; and collaboration between NGOs in China as examples of the need “to collaborate, not to compete.” Donald Moore, Global Dairy Platform, described the “pathways to dairy net zero,” stressing that the industry must consider emerging as well as developed economies. Caitlan Frederick, Fast Action on Climate to Ensure Intergenerational Justice, reminded participants of the importance of youth in decision spaces and to better engage youth in their discussions. Speaking via video link, the World Bank’s Juergen Voegele, Vice President for Sustainable Development, outlined projects to scale up methane emissions work, including by developing sectoral and whole-of-economy reports.
In a session moderated by Cécile Siewe, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Chair, GMI Steering Committee, participants heard from scientists from the CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel, who discussed the soon-to-be published CCAC report, Global Methane Assessment: Baseline 2030.
Drew Shindell, CCAC SAP Chair, outlined the report’s main messages, including that:
In a following panel discussion, Gabrielle Dreyfus, Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, outlined that the only mitigation strategies that can deliver in the near term include cutting methane and other SLCPs. Lisa Emberson, University of York, discussed ways in which mitigating methane will enable the meeting of CO2 targets. Desiree Plata, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, underlined the need for socioeconomic and behavioral assessments to maximize the impact of SLCP mitigation policy.
Several CCAC countries gave updates on policy and planning, including V.K. Tiwari, Ministry of Coal, India, who stated that India is making progress in many areas to reach zero emissions by 2070, including through measures in the energy, agriculture, gas, and coal sectors. Ange-Benjamin Brida, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Côte d’Ivoire, noted his country developed its first SLCP National Action Plan in 2019 and recently updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to include SLCPs. Vigdis Vestreng, Norwegian Environment Agency, presented examples of successful measures on black carbon reduction in the transport, agriculture and food, waste, and oil and gas sectors. She highlighted the need to act simultaneously with respect to clean air and climate change in the short- and long-term.
In a panel discussion, Peter Dery, CCAC Co-Chair and Director of Climate, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ghana, underscored policy reforms, technology transfer, infrastructure improvement, resource mobilization, and capacity building as necessary steps to reducing emissions. Glynda Bathan-Baterina, Clean Air Asia, said the need to work on similar assessments on air pollution is clear, and subnational governments must be fully engaged. She welcomed the support provided to countries to develop national plans, submit updated NDCs, express training needs, and conduct assessments at the national and subnational levels. Alice Alpert, Environmental Defense Fund, drew attention to the importance of constructing national methane inventories. She stressed that inventories must incorporate direct measures data to inform strategy design accurately.
Ani Dasgupta, World Resources Institute (WRI), opened the Forum on Wednesday, describing the Global Methane Pledge as “the momentum [and] the spark” that has enabled fast action on SLCPs. Cécile Siewe discussed Canada’s strategy for reducing methane and SLCP emissions, including capturing and recuperating methane. Noting SLCPs must “be at the heart” of climate strategy, US Deputy White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi praised the momentum building on reducing emissions, including the recent ratification by the US of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
Stressing that methane is “a critical piece” of the climate action puzzle, Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt, underlined that his country is tackling climate change by adopting a “holistic approach.” Pradeep Yadav, Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal, indicated that Nepal, who joined the Global Methane Pledge in 2021, submitted an NDC in 2020 and is implementing a climate change policy up to 2029 to set the path to become zero emissions by 2045.
In a following panel discussion on policy and planning, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp stressed the importance of having plans, targets, and transparency to reduce emissions. Andreas Ahrens, IKEA, highlighted IKEA’s “realistic” approach and the considerations involved in a product’s life cycle. Eric Haxthausen, US Trade and Development Agency, emphasized his agency’s “very aggressive” approach to tackling climate change, including methane emissions. Pacífica F. Achieng Ogola, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya, said Kenya’s simultaneous implementation of its climate change action plan and fulfilment of its NDC, and its long-term climate change strategy will act as an accelerating mechanism towards action.
Wednesday’s second plenary, Putting Development in the Lead: Food Security, Health and Poverty Alleviation Benefits, was moderated by CCAC Head of Secretariat Martina Otto, who opened by noting the measures and technologies to address SLCPs are known and implementable, but “cannot happen on their own.” Johan Kuylenstierna and Kenza Khmosi, CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel, provided a preview of the CCAC Africa Assessment that will be released at COP 27 in November. The report considers both the CCAC’s usual 30-year time horizon, as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, in its assessment.
They described some of the report’s key findings, which include that:
Kuylenstierna noted the report was well-received in its pre-release to African environment ministers, who urged further development and implementation of the 37 measures proposed in the assessment. He argued this shows a sense of ownership from regional stakeholders that will lead to political commitments across the African region. Khmosi explained that most of the measures described in the assessment are already well-known, covering sectors like transport, energy, agriculture, and waste management. She cautioned that challenges remain in ensuring their implementation. In considering how the stakeholder community will take the assessment forward, both scientists noted that African countries will need the full support of the international community.
In a following panel discussion on policy and planning, Pacifica Achieng Ogola indicated Kenya has been advancing work on SLCPs without an action plan, but that with the CCAC’s support, development of an action plan is underway and finalized is expected soon. Jose Abraham Ortinez Alvarez, Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático, Mexico, explained his country began measuring and improving emissions inventories 20 years ago with the US EPA’s support. Now, with the CCAC’s support, inventories have been updated and used to inform their NDC. Siwaporn Rungsiyanon, Pollution Control Department, Thailand, mentioned her country has air quality management experience but historically did not link it to climate change. With CCAC support, she said Thailand expects to improve links between air quality and climate change and generate new data on SLCPs and other greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Another panel discussion followed, focusing on implementation. Shonali Pachauri, SAP, stressed that implementation work should also consider where benefits are being realized and who benefits most in order to ensure a just and equitable transition. Janine Kuriger, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, urged that work on SLCPs be integrated into both countries’ NDCs and their work on SDGs. Lawrence Mashungo, Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Zimbabwe, spoke about the importance of building a low-emissions development strategy across his country, and the challenges involved in bringing together different ministries to discuss integrated assessments of agriculture, water, and energy. Martial Bernoux, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), underlined the importance of inclusivity and of consulting as large a group of stakeholders as possible.
Helen Mountford, ClimateWorks Foundation, opened the Forum on Thursday by reminding participants that financing towards methane abatement constitutes less than 2% of total climate finance flows—“not yet enough” compared to what is needed.
In a keynote address, Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, stressed the importance of reducing SLCP emissions as a “fast decarbonization sprint while we run the deep decarbonization marathon.” She explained that current technology has made clear the ways in which methane leakage has been drastically underestimated in the oil and gas sector, and that this data should be used as leverage for “different conversations” with the industry regarding the integrity of their net zero pledges. She raised the question of how to support countries that have not yet signed onto the Global Methane Pledge, noting mid-size companies from developing countries have largely been abandoned by the financial and development community.
Marcelo Mena described “methane produced [as] energy lost.” He called for collaborative efforts to reduce emissions, for example, the need for better mitigation technologies in the agriculture sector. Jennifer Sara, World Bank Climate Change Global Practice, underlined the Bank’s commitment to reducing methane emissions, as well as the need to engage in systemic efforts to reduce them. She highlighted the need to change regulations accordingly and help countries create their own win-win strategies, promoting resilience while reducing pollution and increasing local incomes. Mark Bowman, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said demonstrating the benefits of taking action is easy because methane emission reduction results are tangible.
In a second plenary focused on securing financing, moderated by Chandra Shekhar Sinha, World Bank, Bella Tonkonogy, Climate Policy Initiative, highlighted that methane emission reductions are essential during this decade in order to achieve the 1.5°C goal. She indicated that methane abatement solutions are underfunded considering their climate change mitigation potential. Bala Bappa, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria, said while Nigeria has policies to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, climate finance remains small. Kevin Massy, Head of Climate, Equinor, stressed the importance of avoiding methane emissions in the first place by using the best possible technology in project design. Manfredi Caltagirone, International Methane Emissions Observatory, UNEP, stressed that building transparent systems is essential to build trust with the fossil fuel industry.
Janine Kuriger, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and Peter Dery, Ministry of Environment, Ghana, presented on a climate-smart agriculture (CSA) project between Switzerland and Ghana involving internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) and Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Ghana EPA, outlined lessons learned from the CSA project. Jay Waldvogel, Dairy Farmers of America, discussed lessons learned from developing the Global Dairy Platform. Gonzalo Muñoz, High-Level Climate Champion for UNFCCC COP 25, highlighted the importance of addressing food waste in reducing emissions.
In a following panel discussion, Carolina Urmeneta from the Global Methane Hub explained that the Hub is working to increase policies on emissions reductions, MRV, and transparency to leverage finance in the energy, agriculture, and waste sectors. Johan Kuylenstierna mentioned that countries supported by CCAC are developing their national action plans and measures, as well as prioritizing measures for SLCP emission reductions. Hilen Meirovich, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Invest, explained that the tools to quantify specific methane emission reductions are often not in place but are under development.
The Global Methane, Climate and Clean Air Forum has shown that the willpower and momentum for action on methane and SLCPs is there. As the world looks towards COP27 in November, this is the moment to capitalize on that momentum and make good on commitments to cut SLCPs, for people and for planet.
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