Some of the easiest targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions are right in front of us every day: black carbon from diesel-fueled vehicles and solid fuel cooking fires, methane from solid waste, hydrofluorocarbons from aerosols.
These are short-lived climate pollutants, named for their relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere. Reducing them now can buy time as countries work to lower their longer-lasting carbon emissions, and their reduction can provide immediate co-benefits for health and agriculture at the same time.
A new report, “Integration of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in World Bank Activities,” identifies ways that the World Bank can do more through its projects to reduce the emission of the short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs): black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and fluorinated gases known as HFCs.
The review highlights ways the Bank’s investments are already reducing SLCPs and shows where potential exists for even greater reduction. It discusses a wide range of SLCP-reducing activities, including:
- bus and rail-based transport systems, which can reduce black carbon emissions and have strong, local public health co-benefits;
- solid waste collection and disposal methods that can reduce methane emissions;
- improved cookstoves and kilns that can reduce black carbon; and
- rice irrigation and wastewater management that can lower methane emissions and have global benefits to agricultural productivity and health.
From financial years 2007 to 2012, 7.7 percent of World Bank commitments – approximately US$ 18 billion – went into “SLCP-relevant” activities in energy, transport, roads, agriculture, forestry, and urban waste and wastewater. The report suggests that more can be done.
The report, prepared at the request of the G8, was released today by World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte at the High-Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition
“While we continue – and must continue – to hammer away at reducing CO2 emissions, efforts to reduce these short-lived climate pollutants can have an immediate effect on slowing warming and the resulting consequences of more extreme weather and devastating sea-level rise,” Kyte said.
“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,” she said. “At the same time, reducing these pollutants can reap huge health, agriculture and other development benefits.”
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (pdf), fast action to reduce SLCPs could avoid an estimated 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution annually by 2030 and avoid about 32 million tons of crop loss per year. It could also have a direct impact on climate change, with the potential to reduce the warming expected by 2050 by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius.