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Reducing Black Carbon Emissions

Ice in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea. Impacts to the Arctic have ripple effects beyond the region.

Ice in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea. Impacts to the Arctic have ripple effects beyond the region.

Photo by Florian Schulz /

Earthjustice is working to save the Arctic—and all who rely on it—from the twin threats of oil and gas development and catastrophic climate change.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Black carbon pollution, born of diesel engines, heavy industry and other sources, has a double warming effect, first in the atmosphere and then again when it settles on white ice, accelerating melting to disastrous effect. The Arctic’s indigenous people—who have relied on a cold environment for millennia—as well as iconic wildlife like polar bears and caribou, are all in jeopardy.

Leading scientists also warn that this process is endangering the entire planet: Arctic warming and melting cause more extreme weather in the mid-latitudes and sea level rise that will have catastrophic consequences for low-lying coastal communities around the world.

Significant global reductions in black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants can slow temperature rise by as much as 0.5°C degrees by 2040, and slow the rate of Arctic warming by as much as two-thirds by 2040.

Earthjustice is working to reduce black carbon emissions by:

  1. Advising the Arctic Athabaskan Council, which is a member of the Arctic Council, a multi-nation group that consists of the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and six indigenous peoples’ organizations. The Arctic Council is negotiating a circumpolar agreement to reduce black carbon emissions in the eight Arctic nations, which could slow regional warming—and the global consequences—significantly. As the Athabaskan Council’s legal representative, we are working to:
    • Draft formal submissions to the Task Force on objectives, structure, and oversight processes,
    • Advocate for transparency in reporting and oversight mechanisms, and
    • Advocate for high standards, best available technologies, and best practices in reporting standards.
  2. Advocating for a strong stance on black carbon in the Obama administration’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region, a critical goal in positioning the U.S. as an international leader on black carbon reductions. The U.S. assumes the chair of the Arctic Council in 2015. Earthjustice will work with indigenous and environmental organization allies to ensure that the U.S. uses its influence to push for strong action to reduce emissions.