Six countries announce initiative to reduce some climate pollutants

February 17th, 2012 by WWF

The US, Canada, Mexico, Ghana, Sweden and Bangladesh have launched an initiative to cut emissions of some of the substances that cause climate change.

These substances – black carbon or soot from traditional cooking fires and cooking stoves, methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – are known as short-lived forcers, because they do not stay in the earth’s atmosphere very long.

According to the US Department of State they “account for approximately one-third of current global warming, and have significant impacts on public health, the environment, and world food productivity.”

WWF said that the initiative was welcome, but warned that it must not distract us from our main task: reducing CO2 emissions.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said “deep and immediate carbon dioxide reductions are required to protect the climate over the long term. This cannot be achieved by addressing short-lived climate forcers alone. The science behind this new initiative is sound, but it does not in any way support postponing immediate and aggressive global action on anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

“The fact is, the big greenhouse gas emitters like the U.S. and Canada that are advancing this initiative have done very little to reduce emissions. Now they’ve developed an initiative that shifts the focus to others, developing countries in particular. Support for action in poorer countries is important, but their primary responsibility should be to reduce their own emissions, and address the global challenges posed by climate change.”

WWF welcomes any initiative that wants to tackle black carbon and energy poverty, but we should not assume that it will deliver quick results. There are many practical challenges to addressing black carbon from traditional cooking stoves and cooking fires, including the number of point sources, limited awareness, financing, and cultural barriers to adoption of new cooking methods. Success will depend on good mechanisms for finance, accounting and delivery.

In short, while short-lived forcers provide a window of opportunity, WWF believes we should focus on the biggest cause of climate change: CO2.


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