We've been pushing for this for a long time and have been amazed at the slow uptake to address carbon forcers - which would greatly slow the progress of climate change for decades - today, the US is FINALLY taking action.
This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EPA Adminstrator Lisa Jackson announced the launch of a voluntary coalition which will take concrete action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants - black carbon soot, HFCs and methane.
The "Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Term Climate Pollutants" plans to facilitate national action plans and broadly raising public awareness about the impact of action in these areas.
Together, these pollutants are causing about 40-50% of global warming - unnecessarily, because they are the easiest to target and reduce. They only stay in the atmosphere for a few days, but their accumulation in the atmosphere is charging up global warming. Reducing these pollutants would also have enormously
positive health benefits for people around the world in addition to increasing agricultural yields by some 30%.
Reducing these pollutants are the world's best chance to keep of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees C, or even 1.5C.
Other founding coalition members attended the launch: the head of UNEP, and ministers from Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, and Ghana.
Interesting group of coalition members! The EU will likely sign on since they put out a call to address climate forcers last year. Bangladesh is one of the countries suffering most from climate
change, but Canada has completely lost any credibility because of it's romance with tar sands oil.
Clinton says they are quickly reaching out to other countries and many have already expressed interest. The coalition will be seeded with $15 million, with $12 million coming from the US and $3 million from Canada over the next two years.
UNEP will act as secretary and will develop an annual work
plan and budget, and manage the trust fund.
Facts on Climate Forcers
UNEP projects that reducing black carbon soot - created by dirty diesel engines and cookstoves used by billions of people in developing countries - would prevent at least 2.5 million deaths a year from indoor air pollution.
The black soot literally sits on the Arctic ice cap and glaciers - turning them black. When ice is black it doesn't reflect cold back into the atmosphere and melts much more rapidly.
HFCs are used as refrigerants and to make insulating foams - their precursor was banned as part of the successful Montreal Ozone Treaty. HFCs were accepted a temporary substitute because they have a smaller impact on the ozone layer - but they are very potent global warming agents. Industry has now developed alternatives, and they can be phased out.
Methane can be captured as used for energy. It comes from a variety of sources, such as landfills, coal mines, leaking oil/ gas pipelines, conventional agriculture, and feedlots. And it's produced from natural gas fracking.
Many of the actions needed to reduce these pollutants are no-cost or low-cost.
The US already invests $10 million a year to provide clean-burning cookstoves to the developing world through the The Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, launched in 2010 by Secretary Clinton.
None of this means the world can relax on the need to reduce carbon emissions - the big elephant in the room. It just gives the world more time to finally come to terms with and make the necessary transition to efficiency and renewable energy.
At this point, with the fossil fuel industries preventing world action on carbon reduction and political and national resistance, the world is not moving anywhere near fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Unlike carbon forcers, carbon dioxide is a long-lived greenhouse gas. About half of all carbon remains in the atmosphere for roughly 100 years, but 20% stays for thousands of years.