Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, announced a program, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, today to reduce methane, soot and other pollutants. The United States is jumpstarting the program by contributing $12 million over the next two years.
"By focusing on these pollutants, how to reduce them and, where possible, to use them for energy, people will see results," Clinton said at a news conference today in Washington D.C.
So-called short-lived pollutants like black carbon (soot), methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) account for more than one-third of global warming. They are key to reducing warming in the near term because they stay in the atmosphere for only weeks or a few years, compared to carbon dioxide which remains in the atmosphere for centuries.
Many of the methane sources—like coal mines and oil development—are big companies which can not only afford to capture their emissions but use the captured gas as an energy source hence saving money.
Black carbon is emitted by diesel exhaust, inefficient cookstoves, open-burning of agricultural waste; methane comes from coal mines, oil and gas extraction and landfills; and HFCs are used in refrigeration and solvents.
U.S. leadership in global efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants around the world is critical. The time is now to implement these measures because the science tells us the only way to slow global warming and Arctic ice melt in the near term is to reduce these types of pollutants.
Secretary Clinton also emphasized the health benefits of black carbon reductions. Black carbon from diesel vehicles and cookstoves is a major cause of respiratory illness and premature death around the world, particularly in poor countries. She also emphasized the need to step up efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, stating that this initiative would “complement, not supplant other actions we are and must be taking.”
Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the United Nations Environment Programme join the U.S. and Canada in signing on to the project.
Arctic ice melt, especially the accelerating melting of the Greenland ice sheet, is projected to cause sea level rise that will be catastrophic for Bangladesh, low lying islands and coastal areas here in the U.S. When the coalition meets for the first time in Stockholm this April, they should act with urgency, something many more of us will be feeling in the near future.