Liberia Targets Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in National Climate Commitments

by CCAC secretariat - 25 January, 2022
Health, development, and climate benefits have prompted Liberia to include SLCP reductions in its Nationally Determined Contributions. Liberia will target sectors with heavy methane emissions like waste and agriculture.

Liberia plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 64 per cent by targeting high-impact short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane. Liberia’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) outlines its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the methane-heavy livestock and agricultural sectors by 40 per cent and in the waste sector by 7.6 per cent by 2030. 

“In the past, our mitigation targets were mostly geared towards greenhouse gas emissions which meant that we weren’t capturing the multiple benefits that can be accrued by reducing short-lived pollutants. Benefits like a clean environment, reduced warming, reduced sea-level rise, safe health, and improved agricultural productivity,” said Rafael Sarji Ngumbu of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency. “As we continue to target greenhouse gas emission reduction we must also look at short-lived climate pollutants because even though they spend a shorter time in the atmosphere, they have a greater warming effect and could prove crucial in helping us meet our reduction targets.” 

Liberia developed an SLCP emission inventory with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). The CCAC and SEI worked with the Liberian government to train stakeholders on the Long Range Energy Alternatives Planning System and its Integrated Benefits Calculator, or LEAP-IBC. This integrated modeling and scenario planning tool helps governments assess which sectors and actions have the most mitigation potential and the greatest climate, clean air, and development benefits. The data was crucial for drafting and ratifying Liberia’s ambitious NDC targets.

Since 2015, Liberia has worked with the CCAC to strengthen institutional capacity and  build integrated emissions inventories. This included developing a national SLCP unit within Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create an initial work plan and coordinate mitigation activities. A National SLCP Advisory Board was also established, drawing from a variety of government ministries to improve data collection on SLCPs and mitigation activities. SEI and the CCAC hosted SLCP awareness workshops to help integrate them into national planning and processes.

“We thank the CCAC and SEI for their support in developing our SLCP emission inventory, which helped us inform and evaluate our mitigation options, and enhanced our revised NDCs,” said Ngumbu. “Many of the mitigation options included in the revised NDCs came directly from the emissions inventory. It was indeed a big help.”

Liberia was an early signatory to the Global Methane Pledge, a voluntary agreement to collectively reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030 and plans to make significant reductions. 

The agricultural sector is a major area of intervention for Liberia and many other countries, as it is responsible for 42 per cent of human-caused methane emissions globally. With international support, Liberia wants to commit $400,000 to research ways to reduce emissions from its agricultural and livestock sectors.

One priority intervention will be promoting efficient rice production, which can reduce methane emissions and water use. This is also a priority area for the CCAC, which is promoting strategies like alternative wetting and drying to help reduce the 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions that rice cultivation is responsible for.

The country also plans to implement programs and incentives to help farmers adopt conservation agriculture, including composting, crop rotation and other low-emissions but high-efficiency agricultural practices. In its NDC, Liberia plans to have 1,500 households adopt sustainable livestock practices like improved breeding and better manure management. It also plans to establish 100 schools to train at least 5,000 farmers on improved agricultural techniques. This will include work to end the burning of crop residue, a strategy CCAC is already promoting in countries like Peru, and India, where farmers are retaining agricultural waste to use as mulch to make the soil healthier and erosion-proof instead of burning it.

Livestock is responsible for about 32 per cent of human-made methane emissions globally and Liberia plans to achieve a 40 per cent emissions reduction in the livestock sector by improving feed to reduce the methane produced by enteric fermentation, and improving manure management by using biodigesters and composting. The country also plans to develop a circular economy to  compost and reuse organic materials for fertilizer.

The waste sector is another area where  Liberia plans to reduce methane emissions. It will develop landfill gas recovery systems at two sites: Whein Town Landfill by 2022 and Cheesemanburg Landfill by 2025, and  conduct a feasibility study on the potential to produce biogas from waste to generate electricity. It also plans to develop a small scale market waste composting project by 2025. 

Preventing open waste burning is also part of their overall waste strategy. 

“We’re considered one of the lungs of the world because we have approximately 4.5 million hectares of lowland tropical forests which makes up 43 per cent of the Upper Guinea Forest. We need to conserve what we have and avoid harmful practices like open burning that cause air pollution. When people burn waste and agricultural residues, which happens in most communities in Liberia,dangerous pollutants are released into the atmosphere, impacting the climate and human health,” said Ngumbu. “We’re noticing worrying trends from the increasing health impacts of short-lived climate pollutants. While we need more research, we’re seeing a growing number of people reporting lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, breathing difficulties, and respiratory disorders.”

According to the CCAC’s Global Methane Assessment, reducing methane emissions globally by 45 per cent would prevent 260,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits. 

The plans outlined in Liberia’s NDC are not limited to waste and agriculture. Liberia plans to reduce emissions from the transport sector by over 15 per cent  through actions like promoting diesel particulate filters. It also plans to implement a Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) tax to reduce emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration, incentivize companies and consumers to replace their high global warming potential cooling equipment with lower-emitting models, and pass regulations mandating efficiency and low emissions in new cooling equipment. 

Liberia also plans to distribute energy saving cookstoves.

“In the cooking sector we’ve noticed that black carbon is becoming an increasingly big problem,” said Ngumbu. “The use of traditional cookstoves leads to health effects on mothers that correspondingly have a  trickling-down effect on children— we have sick mothers who also have sick children and if care is not taken, we may likely have a sick generation. One way to mitigate this is to encourage the use of clean and improved cookstoves. The use of improved cookstoves increases thermal efficiency, conserves forest by reducing biomass consumption, reduces indoor air pollution and hence smoke-related health disorders among women who are mostly involved with cooking in Liberia”.

Liberia hosted three regional workshops across the country to present the draft of the NDCs to a variety of stakeholders, who showed overwhelming support and helped finalize it. They also hosted a youth dialogue to get input and approval from over 35 youth organizations, and a gender dialogue to ensure that women were well-represented in the process. Stakeholders were swayed by the immense health, development, and climate benefits from reducing  short-lived climate pollutants. 

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, Liberia will need financial support, capacity building and technology transfer assistance from the international community. Liberia also wants to improve data collection and research on the health impacts of short-lived climate pollutants to help spur action.This requires capacity building at the individual and institutional levels.

“Setting ambitious NDCs is one thing and implementation is another. We are now fully focused on implementation,” said Ngumbu. “We hope to work with the CCAC and all our relevant partners to meet these targets by developing bankable projects that produce real change on the ground.”