Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Climate Change September 03, 2013 - 8:42 am

UN meeting seeks ways to curb climate-warming air pollutants

"As an Arctic nation, Canada profoundly understands the climate and public health benefits of reducing short-lived climate pollutants"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Flares like this gas flare in North Dakota produce soot which ends up in the Arctic where it helps speed up snow and ice melt. (PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)
Flares like this gas flare in North Dakota produce soot which ends up in the Arctic where it helps speed up snow and ice melt. (PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

Keeping the world’s rising temperature a little bit lower could be as easy as cutting the amount of soot and methane that gets into the air — or as difficult as convincing the world’s governments from cracking down on polluters and setting stricter anti-polllution standards.

To rally international government support for measures to keep global warming in check, experts and government officials met in Oslo, Norway Sept. 2 and 3 for the United Nations-linked Climate and Clean Air Coalition meeting.

Fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, like soot and methane, from getting into the atmosphere can slow down the average global temperature rise by .5 C by 2050, the coalition says.

That’s because, while these pollutants have relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere, ranging from a few days to a few decades, they have warming influence on the climate.

Previous research has shown that the impact of soot is magnified from 10 to 100 times in the Arctic because the dark particles are magnets for heat on ice and snow.

Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, now also minister of the environment, and minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Arctic Council, also travelled to Oslo to discuss measures aimed at reducing short-lived climate pollutants.

“As an Arctic nation, Canada profoundly understands the climate and public health benefits of reducing short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon [soot] and methane,” Aglukkaq said in a news release.

Reducing emissions of those pollutants is an “integral part of Canada’s broader climate change and clean air agenda,” and the Arctic Council program during Canada’s chairmanship, the government release said. 

The release said Canada is taking strong action at home to reduce short-lived climate pollutants with measures such as:

• regulations to reduce air pollutants from on-road and off-road vehicles, marine shipping, and trains;

• greenhouse gas regulations for the coal-fired electrical power plants; and,

• creation of an “Air Quality Management System,” which will set stringent air quality limits.

But those are not the only efforts Canada that should make to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, say critics who point to Canada’s production of natural oil and gas in Alberta.

That produces large-scale flaring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Flaring is also a problem because it also releases substantial amounts of black carbon, which is particularly harmful to human health and areas such as the Arctic.

At the first meeting of the UN group short-lived climate pollutants in 2012, participants agreed to push for:

• reducing soot emissions from heavy duty diesel vehicles and engines, a major source of soot, which account for at least 30 per cent of the warming in the Arctic;

• reducing methane, black carbon, and other air pollutants emissions across the municipal solid waste sector by working with cities and national governments;

• promoting alternative technology and standards
 for hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning, which could account for as much as 19 per cent of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 if left unchecked; and,

• reducing soot from oil and natural gas production; and,

• “substantially reducing methane emissions from natural gas venting, leakage, and flaring.”

The UN and scientists are the only parties worried about short-lived climate pollutants: earlier this year, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, one of the Arctic Council’s permanent indigenous participants, filed a 120-page petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In its petition, the council asks the commission to declare that Canada is undermining the human rights of Athabaskan peoples by poorly regulating emissions of soot, which contributes to Arctic warming and melting.

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