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A Second Front in the Climate War

16 Feb 2012  |   Lea Brumfield

Sidestepping the slow progress of international climate change negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this morning announced a State Department initiative to reduce emissions of the common short-lived pollutants. Joining the program announcement were officials from Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the United Nations Environment Program. According to the NYT, the seed funding for the international program will consist of $12 million from the United States, and $3 million from Canada.

While carbon pollution is the most persistent and toxic offender in climate change, short-lived pollutants like soot, methane, and hydroflourocarbons account for over one-third of global warming pollution.  These pollutants come largely from manageable sources, like manufacturing plants, agriculture, and inefficient wood burning cook stoves.

"So when we discover effective and affordable ways to reduce global warming -- not just a little, but by a lot -- it is a call to action for all of us," said Clinton.

The program, known as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, will outline 16 actions that can be taken to cut short-lived pollutants and slow global warming by .5 degrees Celsius by 2050.  According to Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, reducing short-lived pollutants in developing nations creates immediate benefits for the people no longer breathing soot or suffering from unstable rain patterns.

While carbon pollution must remain the focus of climate change mitigation, initiatives like the new coalition can have a big impact on climate change.  International climate negotiations have limped along for years, and regulators, environmentalists, and citizens are eager for a direction for progress.

“This is a formal declaration that we’re opening a second front in the climate war,” said Mr. Zaelke.

Read the State Department’s Fact Sheet on the program here.

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