Fast-track­ing cli­mate ac­tion

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Last De­cem­ber in Paris, world lead­ers came to­gether to agree on a set of goals and path­ways for de­car­bon­is­ing the global econ­omy and in­creas­ing our ca­pac­ity to adapt to cli­mate change. It was a land­mark achieve­ment, but it was just the be­gin­ning. Ev­ery coun­try – with the sup­port of cities, the pri­vate sec­tor, and cit­i­zens – must now move swiftly to ful­fil its prom­ises and bring cli­mate change un­der con­trol.

The need for ur­gent, con­certed ac­tion can­not be em­pha­sised enough. Any de­lay will cause neg­a­tive con­se­quences to con­tinue to ac­cu­mu­late. This will not only cause tremen­dous suf­fer­ing, es­pe­cially to the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple; it will re­ver­ber­ate for decades to come, mak­ing the key goal of keep­ing the in­crease in global tem­per­a­ture be­low 2C (rel­a­tive to pre-in­dus­trial lev­els) in­creas­ingly costly.

The rapid progress that is needed will re­quire ma­jor re­duc­tions in car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, achieved through in­creased in­vest­ment in the devel­op­ment and ex­pan­sion of cleaner and more ef­fi­cient en­ergy. At the same time, ef­forts to con­serve and ex­pand car­bon “sinks” – that is, the forests, wet­lands, grass­lands, man­groves, and sea grasses that ab­sorb much of the CO2 be­ing emit­ted – are cru­cial.

But even un­der the most op­ti­mistic sce­nar­ios, it will take time to en­gi­neer a global shift away from fos­sil fu­els to­ward re­new­able en­er­gies and to re­store the world’s badly de­pleted eco­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture. That is why it is im­por­tant to pur­sue mea­sures to re­duce short-lived cli­mate pol­lu­tants (SLCPs), which also cause cli­mate change. These in­clude black car­bon or soot (the pri­mary com­po­nent of par­tic­u­late mat­ter that is also a ma­jor and grow­ing health con­cern); hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons (HFCs), used most com­monly in re­frig­er­a­tion; and meth­ane and level) ozone.

Pound for pound, these “su­per pol­lu­tants” cause much more warm­ing than CO2. In­deed, the warm­ing im­pact of soot is about 900 times greater than that of car­bon, and the im­pact of meth­ane is about 28 times greater; many of the HFCs have a warm­ing im­pact that is about 2,000 times more pow­er­ful than that of CO2.

The prob­lems caused by SLCPs ex­tend be­yond cli­mate change. Black car­bon and tro­po­spheric ozone pol­lu­tion are tra­di­tional air pol­lu­tants, which to­gether kill nearly 7 mln peo­ple a year and de­stroy hun­dreds of millions of tons of food crops.

The United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme’s Cli­mate and Clean Air Coali­tion to Re­duce Short-Lived Cli­mate Pol­lu­tants es­ti­mates that fast ac­tion to re­duce SLCPs, es­pe­cially meth­ane and black car­bon, has the po­ten­tial to slow down the warm­ing ex­pected by 2050 by as much as 0.5C. More­over, it could save over 2 mln lives an­nu­ally, while pre­vent­ing the loss of more than 30 mln tons of crops per year.

There is rea­son to hope that we can reap these ben­e­fits. Un­der the Paris agree­ment, in­di­vid­ual coun­tries are to achieve emis­sions re­duc­tions ac­cord­ing to their own na­tion­ally de­ter­mined con­tri­bu­tions. More than a dozen coun­tries have in­cluded SLCPs in their na­tional cli­mate ac­tion plans. Fur­ther­more, the Cli­mate and Clean Air Coali­tion is work­ing with its 50 mem­ber coun­tries, as well as the World Bank and World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, to cut the su­per pol­lu­tants.

But, to be suc­cess­ful, ef­forts must go above and be­yond the Paris agree­ment. For­tu­nately, progress is be­ing made here, too.

Al­ready, mea­sures to mit­i­gate HFC pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion are be­ing pur­sued through the Mon­treal Pro­to­col on pro­tect­ing the ozone layer. Gov­ern­ments opened for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions last Novem­ber, and are aim­ing to reach agree­ment by the end of this year. This builds on an im­pres­sive phase-out of older chem­i­cals, such as chlo­roflu­o­ro­car­bons and oth­ers, that has averted the

tro­po­spheric

(or ground- equiv­a­lent of 135 at­mos­phere, while layer.

Of course, the re­duc­tion of SLCPs should not come at the ex­pense of ef­forts to cut CO2 emis­sions. On the con­trary, the world can and must re­duce both si­mul­ta­ne­ously. And, in­deed, ef­forts to re­duce CO2 emis­sions are also oc­cur­ring out­side the Paris agree­ment frame­work. The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion is work­ing to re­duce emis­sions from air travel, hav­ing reached a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment on the sub­ject just a few weeks ago. The In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­gan­i­sa­tion is pur­su­ing sim­i­lar goals for ship­ping.

Warm­ing from any cli­mate pol­lu­tant is dan­ger­ous and sets in mo­tion a se­ries of po­ten­tially ir­re­versible ef­fects, in­clud­ing the con­tin­ued rise of sea lev­els, de­struc­tion of forests, de­ple­tion of Arc­tic sea ice and glaciers in Green­land and the Ti­betan Plateau, and melt­ing of per­mafrost. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, these ef­fects can re­in­force one an­other, tip­ping the world into a vi­cious cy­cle that be­comes ever more dif­fi­cult to es­cape.

But if we act fast, har­vest­ing fresh mo­men­tum on HFCs un­der sis­ter agree­ments like Mon­treal and a grow­ing ar­ray of co­op­er­a­tive coali­tions, we can avoid dis­as­ter and en­sure long-term eco­nomic devel­op­ment, in­clud­ing by sup­port­ing progress to­ward achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals.

Sim­ply put, the rate of ac­tion on all cli­mate-re­lated emis­sions will de­ter­mine our suc­cess in erad­i­cat­ing poverty and will shape the world our de­scen­dants will in­herit. With gov­ern­ments pre­par­ing to sign the Paris agree­ment on April 22, there has never been a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to press ahead to­ward a brighter, cleaner, more pros­per­ous fu­ture. bil­lion tons of CO2 from ac­cel­er­at­ing the re­cov­ery en­ter­ing the of the ozone

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