The Unusual Suspects of Climate Change

What are Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and how do they contribute to climate change?

When considering climate change, chances are you’re thinking of the usual suspect, carbon dioxide. Although carbon dioxide is by far the most important pollutant and most significant cause of global warming, it is not the only culprit. 

Some of the other suspects have long names but short lives. While carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for millennia, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs)—comprising black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons—have a lifespan somewhere between days and a few years. They don’t get much press, but SLCPs represent up to 45 percent of total warming emissions.  As such, they deserve their own share of the climate-action spotlight.

BSR is keen to shine a light on SLCPs, not only to underline their role in climate change, but also to demonstrate that tackling SLCPs presents companies with a significant opportunity to improve performance on both environmental and social fronts.

Curbing SLCP emissions helps limit warming to 2°C and improves air quality, crop quality and yield, and human health.

BSR, with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition, is integrating SLCP emissions reductions into our climate strategy for private-sector action on curbing global temperature rises and protecting human health and biodiversity.

BSR will kick off its Spring Forum Series 2015 on May 22, during Paris Climate Week, by presenting research on how business can integrate fast mitigation into climate strategies. At “Fast Mitigation for High-Emitting Sectors,” companies will discuss how they are addressing these lesser-known climate forcers, and representatives from the transport, waste, oil and gas, and agriculture sectors will join the conversation.

One example of collaborative and effective action is the “Oil and Gas Initiative,” which has brought together public- and private-sector actors to reduce methane leakage. During our event in Paris, we will explore the initiative’s progress in promoting corporate emissions reductions and efficient energy production.

While carbon dioxide remains the most wanted for emissions reductions, SLCPs must also be on the watch list. We look forward to drawing greater attention to this issue, and to highlighting how business can act—and is acting—on climate with both ambition and pragmatism.


This blog originally appeared on BSR website on 10 April, 2015.