Washington, D.C., February 16, 2012 — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and environmental ministers from five other countries launched a new initiative on Climate and Clean Air to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants.
These include black carbon, ground-level ozone and its precursor methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, used as refrigerants and to make insulating foams. Collectively they contribute up to 40 percent or more of climate warming.
The science supporting fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants has been developed over the last 25 years, with by Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography playing a leading role, often in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. Mario Molina, who shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry, has been working on the fluorinated gases, which include HFCs, since his seminal paper in Nature on CFCs with Sherwood Roland in 1974.
Last year Drew Shindell at NASA and a team of scientists working with UNEP culled 16 primary targets for cutting black carbon and methane from a pool of over 2,000 measures. The Shindell team calculated the costs and benefits of targeting these eight black carbon measures and eight methane measures, concluding that they can cut the rate of global warming in half over the next 30 to 40 years, while preventing millions of deaths a year and enhancing food security by cutting losses of four major grains by up to 4 percent. A substantial part of these cuts can be done at little or no net cost.
The initiative of developing and developed countries was catalyzed by the Federated States of Micronesia as a way to slow sea level rise, and is designed to complement reductions of CO2, which remains the priority for climate policy. A substantial part of CO2 stays in the atmosphere warming the planet for thousands of years.
The initiative is stating modestly with the initial coalition of six countries—three from the developing world and three from the developed world; the U.S, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and Ghana. The secretariat will be hosted by UNEP.
A dedicated fund is being raised, with an initial contribution of $12 million from the U.S. and $3 million from Canada for the first two years. Sweden is expected to add to the fund, and other donors will be asked to contribute in the coming months.
This funding is new and in addition to the $20 million the U.S. is currently providing for the Global Clean Cook Stove Initiative ($10) and for the Global Methane Initiative ($10 million), which already includes hundreds of projects in 40 countries. The Climate and Clean Air initiative is expected to expand rapidly to include at least 40 countries in the first two months. A ministerial meeting is planned for Stockholm in late April.