In the foothills of the Himalayas, top experts on black carbon, community organisations, government agencies, research organisations, academia, and international agencies met to identify and assess mitigation actions that can be implemented in a cost-effective manner to reduce emissions of black carbon in South Asia. The discussions were held during a consultation organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP
) in collaboration with partner organisations, US EPA's Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA
), and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which concluded on Wednesday, 23rd March.
Scientific studies conducted by the project Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC), UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone, and other initiatives, have called increased attention to the role of short-lived atmospheric pollutants, such as black carbon, on climate change, human health, food security, and water security. Studies have also identified South Asia as one of the ABC hotspots due to the high concentration of haze and vulnerability to its effects.
“Scientific studies suggest that well designed mitigation actions maximise not only the climate benefits, but also the air quality, public health, agriculture, and sustainable development co-benefits. There is a need to assist the existing domestic, regional, and international efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived atmospheric pollutants,” Surendra Shrestha, Director for Resource Mobilization and Special Initiatives, UNEP, said in his opening address.
UNEP, recognising the need for additional science to understand the source and role of short-lived atmospheric pollutants, established the ABC science team in 2001. The science team has made significant progress in establishing a deeper understanding of the science of short-lived atmospheric pollutants and building the required capacity to study the issue.
“Scientific understanding of short-lived pollutants is now sufficiently advanced, and the need for climate mitigation is so urgent, to support the development of strategies to reduce the emissions of short-lived pollutants,” said Dr. V. Ramanathan, Professor, University of California at San Diego and Chair, ABC-International Science Team during his keynote address. Capacity building, as well as better understanding of science, is needed to implement the most successful mitigation measures.
“According to the latest research, black carbon, a short-lived climate forcer, is now a major concern for the rapid melting of snow and ice and human health. It is important to build the capacity in the region for monitoring and addressing this issue as well as to increase the capacity to cope with the situation,” ICIMOD Director General Andreas Schild said in his welcome remarks.
The snow and glaciers of the Himalayas, considered the world’s “Third Pole”, are the third largest store of water on the planet and accelerated melting could have far reaching effects, such as flooding in the short-term and water shortages in the long-term, as the glaciers shrink.
“It seems certain that there are untapped or underutilised ideas, strategies, and innovative approaches to reducing black carbon emissions that have the potential to usher in a new era of improved business practices and new, greener businesses,” said Anthony Socci, Office of International and Tribal Affairs, US EPA, in his opening remarks.
After three days of deliberations, the consultation identified measures that could be promoted to reduce emissions of short-lived atmospheric pollutants from the residential, industrial and transportation sectors in South Asia. The consultation ended with a positive note that “Reduction in short-lived atmospheric pollutants such as black carbon can be accomplished with already available, cost-effective technologies”.
The outcome of this consultation will help UNEP and other partners to design effective mechanisms to assist the member countries and stakeholders in implementing emission reduction measures for short-lived atmospheric pollutants in the context of sustainable development.
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