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World Bank to promote reductions in short-term climate pollutants

6 September 2013

The World Bank released a new report, “Integration of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in World Bank Activities,” that identifies ways for the bank to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon (soot), methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). The report has been prepared at the request of the G8.

These climate pollutants have a relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere—such as on the order of weeks or months, as opposed to hundreds of years for carbon dioxide. Reducing emissions of these short-lived pollutants can buy time as countries work to lower their longer-lasting carbon emissions—concludes the World Bank report—and their reduction can provide immediate co-benefits for health and agriculture at the same time.

“From our perspective, aggressive action to reduce SLCPs is critically important as it provides our clients, developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, a critical opportunity to adapt to our changing climate,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. “At the same time, reducing these pollutants can reap huge health, agriculture and other development benefits.”

In its future projects, the World Bank would look for ways to reduce soot emissions from public transport, as well as to control methane emissions from agriculture and waste disposal, and improve the efficiency of high-emission cooking stoves. Nearly 8% of World Bank funding to poor nations ($18 billion from 2007-2012) is directed to such sectors as energy, farming, waste and transport, which have a potential to reduce emissions. In their future projects, the World Bank would require that such projects include an emission reduction component. The bank has not provided the projected levels of funding.

The interest in controlling short-lived climate emissions has been triggered in part by the inability of world‘s governments to reach an agreement on the reduction of global CO2 emissions. Reductions in the short-lived pollutant emissions could offset some of the steadily increasing CO2 emissions and are often less challenging to implement, both technically and economically. In the transportation sector, soot emissions can be drastically reduced by the adoption of particulate filter-forcing emission standards—such as Euro 5 for light-duty vehicles and Euro VI for heavy-duty engines—and the corresponding fuel quality requirements. Diesel particulate filters are also available as a retrofit option for existing vehicles.

The control of short-lived climate pollutants can also provide an immediate political reward. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) was launched in Washington in February 2012. According to the CCAC, controlling emissions of short-term pollutants could reduce global warming by up to 0.5°C by 2040-2050. This would present an important contribution to the international goal, set by the UN in 2010, to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

On the downside, the focus on short-term pollutants is shifting the political attention away from the most important climate forcing agent, CO2. Opinions are also divided on the effectiveness of near-term climate mitigation strategies. A recent study by PNNL found that that reductions of black carbon and methane would have only a modest impact on near-term global warming. Even with maximally feasible reductions phased in from 2015 to 2035, global mean temperatures in 2050 would be reduced by only 0.16°C, predicted the study, far less than 0.5°C.

Source: The World Bank