Colombia and UNEP Host Conference to Tackle Climate Change and Air Pollution

by CCAC secretariat - 31 October, 2012
21 countries meet in Bogota to chart a course for tackling short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) across Latin America and the Caribbean

31 October 2012, Bogota, Colombia –  21 countries begin meetings here  today intended to help slow the rate of global warming over the next few decades, and deliver earlier and more effective protection from the damage to health and crops caused by air pollution across the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Meeting on “short-lived climate pollutants” at the regional level for the first time, government officials aim to identify concrete measures that can be taken quickly across the region to reduce emissions of SLCPs and build relevant and effective action on SLCPs into national economic development and environmental strategies.

The meeting will also contribute to the development of the regional action plan on air pollution commissioned by the Regional Forum of Latin American Environment Ministers, and enable engagement with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a new global initiative of 20 countries and 13 international organizations and NGOs (as of October 2012) the Secretariat of which is hosted by  the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).   

SLCPs include gases like methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and black carbon particles in the atmosphere. Collectively they contribute a substantial fraction of both the warming experienced to date, smaller in influence only than CO2, and cause massive damage to human health and food security.

A UNEP study in 2011 found that aggressive action to reduce SLCPs could avoid over 2 million premature deaths and annual crop losses of over 30 million tonnes each year. Such action could also significantly reduce the costs of achieving long-term goals in both climate and air pollution – and achieve earlier benefits on regional and global climate. Cost-effective technologies to deliver the necessary emission reductions are now available internationally. 

Welcoming the meeting, Colombia’s Minister for the Environment and Sustainable development said:

‘More than most regions, Latin America and the Caribbean are showing the early impacts of climate change, and in our cities air pollution continues to exact an appalling toll on human health.

‘We are already committed to firm action on CO2.  This is essential.   And in cities across the region imaginative and radical efforts are being made to get to grips with the damaging impacts of air pollution. But these efforts will still leave us short of what we need to achieve.

‘It is important therefore that, working together, the countries of the region absorb the lessons of the recent UNEP Global Assessment of SLCPs.   This shows clearly that action on these pollutants could have an early impact on climate change and contribute in a substantial way to cleaner air and food security.

‘The challenge now is  to develop effective national and regional programmes which can deliver these gains and contribute to our wider policies for economic development and the environment.’    



Countries Attending

Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic,  Ecuador, Granada, Honduras, Guatemala,  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, St Lucia, Suriname, Venezuela

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition

Recognizing that the short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) issue and potential are not fully acknowledged, a number of countries and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) formed the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), the first global efforts to treat these pollutants in an integrated and collective challenge.

The CCAC is a voluntary, collaborative global partnership uniting governments, intergovernmental organizations, representatives of the private sector, the environmental community, and other members of civil society committed to taking action on SLCPs.

The CCAC is focusing high-level attention to support fast action on SLCPs and make a difference on several fronts at once: public health, food and energy security and climate. The CCAC aims at catalyzing new, accelerated and scaled-up action to address SLCPs, including by highlighting and bolstering existing efforts focused on these pollutants.

Launched by six countries and UNEP last February, the CCAC is growing rapidly.  As of October 2012, it has now has close to 36 Partners including 19 nation states from around the world (plus the European Commission), along with non-state partners that include (among others) the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, and the Stockholm Environment Institute.

All Partners of the CCAC recognize that the Coalition’s work is entirely complementary to efforts to reduceCO2, in particular efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Regional Action Plan on Air Pollution: Decision of the Regional Forum of Environment Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean

The Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean decided to establish a Regional Inter-Governmental Network on Air Pollution, endorsed further work to define the role and programme of the Network and invited it to begin developing an Action Plan.

The proposal of a regional framework, prepared by the 2010 meeting of the Network, points at the full range of policy areas that may potentially be relevant to a comprehensive Action Plan on air pollution.

At the previous meetings of the Network there was a clear consensus that it would be essential, in any action plan, to link air pollution and climate change related activities, as the two are inextricably linked in sources, impacts and mitigation measures. To a significant extent, ‘co-benefits’ should be a key theme of the air pollution strategy and the action plan should be effectively linked to national and regional climate programmes.  This will ensure that the regional air pollution action plan and the elaboration of a regional strategy on SLCFs develop in close association. The overlap of the two issues will also allow policy to be developed in the most cost-effective way.

About Short-lived Climate Pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are agents that have relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere - a few days to fifteen years - and a warming influence on climate. The main short-lived climate pollutants are black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone, which are the most important contributors to the human enhancement of the global greenhouse effect after CO2. These short-lived climate pollutants are also dangerous air pollutants, with various detrimental impacts on human health, agriculture and ecosystems.

Black carbon is a major component of soot and is formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and biomass. Key sources include emissions from cars and trucks; cookstoves; forest fires and some industrial facilities. It affects the climate by intercepting and absorbing sunlight and darkens snow and ice when deposited, while also influencing cloud formation. It is also a health hazard.

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that is over 20 times more potent than CO2, and has an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years. It is produced through natural processes (i.e. the decomposition of plant and animal waste), but is also emitted from many man-made sources, including coal mines, natural gas and oil systems, and landfills. Methane directly influences the climate system and also has indirect impacts on human health and ecosystems, in particular through its role as a precursor of tropospheric ozone.

Other short-lived climate pollutants include some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are currently present in small quantity in the atmosphere their contribution to climate forcing is projected to climb to as much as 19% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

According to the 2011 UNEP Near-term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits report, fast action on SLCP, in particular black carbon, ground level ozone and methane may help limit near term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees C, contingent on rapid and sharp reductions in CO2. The focus on reducing SLCP complements but in no way replaces the need to reduce CO2 emissions. SLCPs cannot contribute much to reducing warming beyond the near-term.

There are also numerous public health and food security opportunities above and beyond those linked with tackling climate change. Big cuts in emissions of black carbon will improve respiratory health; reduce hospital admissions and days lost at work due to sickness. Big cuts in ground level ozone could also contribute to reduced crop damage equal to between one to four per cent of the annual global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production.