Work of the new Climate and Clean Air Coalition launched in Washington DC on 17 February 2012, was given a further boost Tuesday, April 24, 2012, with the announcements of Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, the European Commission and the World Bank that they are joining.

This brings to 13 the number of partners who have joined, thus expanding the initial membership founded by Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the United States and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Coalition was launched at an event in Washington DC in February hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Five other countries – Australia, Denmark, Finland, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom, along with delegates from the private sector, also attended as observers at last week’s meeting to learn first-hand the Coalition’s plans.

Announcing these through a press statement, UNEP said more than 10 years of scientific research and assessment has indicated that substances such as black carbon or ‘soot’ and methane are triggering wide-ranging health, climate and crop-damaging impacts.

The Coalition aims among others, to catalyse the speed and the scale of action on short lived climate pollutants, enhance existing and develop new national actions to address mitigation gaps and encourage existing and new regional actions.

It also aspires to reinforce and track existing efforts to reduce the pollutants, promote opportunities for greater international coordination, develop and improve inventories, identify barriers to action and seek to surmount them, as well as promote best practices or available technologies and showcase successful efforts to address short lived climate pollutants.

The Climate Coalition further intends to improve understanding of and review scientific progress on short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), their impacts and benefits of mitigation and dissemination of knowledge; and mobilise targeted support for those developing countries that require resources to develop their capacity and to implement actions consistent with national strategies to support sustainable development.

Introducing cost effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to fluorinated gases known as HFCs are also part of the Coalition’s aims, as a result of their high potential to impact climate change, if widely taken up over the coming years.

Meanwhile, the announcement of new national partners was made at the end of the first Ministerial meeting of the Coalition, which took place in parallel with Stockholm+40 – a conference marking four decades after the UN Conference on the Human Environment which took place in the Swedish capital in 1972.

The meeting and conference also came in advance of Rio+20 – two decades after the 1992 Earth Summit that set the course for contemporary sustainable development.

New countries make commitments

Declaring Colombia’s intention to join the Coalition, Frank Pearl, the Colombian Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, said: “Colombia has recognised for some time the urgency of acting on these short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) including the impacts of black carbon on public health and the accelerated melting of glaciers in the high mountain areas of Latin America”.

“Colombia is among several countries in our region to act on soot particles from vehicles and other contaminating sources as well as emissions that are triggering tropospheric or ground level ozone – another short lived climate pollutants,” he said.

“In joining the Coalition we see not only potential national and global benefits but Colombia plans to act as a regional hub, reaching out to other countries in Latin America in order to generate regional opportunities for sustainable development,” said Mr Pearl.

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, also said: “The European Commission is very pleased to join this Coalition. This initiative should complement the efforts needed under the UN climate change convention to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit global temperature increase to below 2°C.

“The Commission is willing to consider further support to concrete projects in developing countries to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants. Action on these pollutants will not, however, replace the need for continued action by all major economies to reduce CO2 emissions, which needs to be stepped up,” she added.

Making a comment on behalf of Nigeria, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia , Nigerian Minister of the Environment said: “Nigeria is delighted to be a new member of the Coalition. It is estimated that 95,000 women in my country die each year prematurely because of black carbon emissions from sources such as inefficient cook stoves–this is a conservative estimate. Meanwhile there are enormous opportunities for reducing methane emissions from sources such as the oil and gas industry and landfills that can benefit Nigeria and its people and the wider regional and global ambitions to combat climate change in a cost effective and economic way”.

“We look to encourage more countries within Africa and beyond to join this inspiring initiative so that fast action can be federated everywhere in order to save lives, improve food security and tackle climate change which challenges the future of the poor and the vulnerable exponentially,” she added.

Also declaring the intention of his country, Bård Vegar Solhjell, the Norwegian Minister of the Environment, said: “Norway is delighted to join the Coalition. It unites our country’s interest in achieving national sustainability with international responsibilities in the areas of health, food security, climate and development”.

“There are many international initiatives addressing these short term pollutants, and Norway is participating in several of them. In this Coalition the United Nations Environment Programme participates, both as partner and as Secretariat for the Coalition. This is a very wise decision, which provides credibility and leverage and increases the value of the Coalition´s work”, he added.

“Finally it echoes to Norway’s interest in the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication – a key issue for the upcoming Rio+20 Summit in June -in which well-targeted policy and financial interventions can catalyse benefits across multiple fronts,” said Mr. Solhjell.

Speaking on behalf of the World Bank, Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development said: “From multi-billion dollar investments in clean energy each year to climate smart solutions for agriculture and cities, the Bank already targets short-term environmental pollutants in developing countries through our lending, data and evidence based knowledge sharing and technical assistance. But, we can achieve even more by working as a coalition”.

“This is the most important decade for action on climate change”, Kyte said, adding, “But with a global treaty that will speed the curbing of carbon dioxide many years off, the climate and clean air coalition puts a practical new deal on the table – one that helps slow global warming while reducing the soot and smog that is damaging food crops and health worldwide, undermining growth and development.”

The Coalition emphasises that the climate benefits need to be backed by cuts in other greenhouse gases including C02 if temperature increases over the 21st century are to be held below 2 degrees Celsius.

However, addressing near term warming from SLCPs may be crucial to avoid the most serious impacts over the coming decades.

Trust Fund Established

To support the Coalition’s efforts, a new Trust Fund managed by a UNEP-hosted secretariat was agreed Tuesday.

Making a comment at the meeting, Lena Ek, Swedish Environment Minister, said: “Sweden is committed to continue working actively with this important coalition. Furthermore we are happy to announce our contribution to the Coalition Trust Fund with 1.4 MSEK for the UNEP Secretariat and 10 MSEK to concrete projects”. 11.4 million Swedish Krona is around $1.7 million.

In the meantime, initial financing pledges for the Coalition now amount to some $16.7 million with significantly more funds expected over the coming 12 months.

Science Advisory Panel

Saying sound science has underpinned the formation of the Coalition and will guide its work into the future, UNEP revealed ministers have asked three luminaries involved in short lived climate pollutant work to advise them on the formation of a dedicated world-class Science Advisory Panel to provide scientific advice to the Coalition.

The advice will be provided by Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Mario Molina, the distinguished Mexican chemist and 1995 Nobel Prize co-winner and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, chair of the UNEP Atmospheric Brown Cloud project based at the University of California San Diego,

Coalition Web Site Goes Live

Further, the Coalition Tuesday unveiled a dedicated website, to support dissemination of information about the initiative’s role and partners

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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