Russia will take care of short living climate factors

Russia decided to join the global initiative to reduce the short living climate factors (SLCF) within the G8 framework. Representatives of environmental NGOs are sure that participation in this agreement will encourage Russia to implement additional climate action that will benefit its economy.

The G8 Declaration suggests steps for accounting, control and reducing emissions of soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbons. It was initiated by the United States, Canada, Sweden, Ghana, Mexico and Bangladesh, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). These countries signed a framework agreement on forming a coalition in February 2012, and in April, at the first meeting of agreement members, the alliance was joined by the EU, Colombia, Nigeria, Norway, Japan and the World Bank.

The principally new intention taken by G8 was inclusion of the so-called black carbon (soot particles) in reduction measures. Methane and hydrofluorocarbons are already included in the list of substances controlled by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, until now, soot was out of international agreements. The inclusion of this pollutant on the list is especially important for Arctic countries: even minimal contamination of snow leads to its heating and melting. In contrast to CO2, soot is rapidly removed from the atmosphere, therefore it earlier "escaped" from the accounting and control.

According the UN Environment Programme Report published in 2011, reducing black carbon and methane emissions could halve the expected growth of the global temperature by 2030 and save annually up to 2.5 million people from premature deaths.

The G8 Declaration says: "Recognizing the impact of short living climate factors on the climate, agriculture and human health in the short term, we support, as a complement to other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, measures to reduce emissions of these pollutants ... thus, we agree to join the initiative."

The initiative to reduce the short living climate factors is not a protocol with strict commitments. This is a voluntary association of countries that want to "clear the air" at home and help to do it in the poorest countries. However, the Declaration includes measures on accounting and reporting emissions, which is a very important step to reduce them.

Alexei Kokorin, the Climate and Energy Program coordinator at WWF Russia, thinks that "although the form of the agreement is not legally binding, and all measures will be completely voluntary, the format of the document is extremely clear and focused on practical activities. The first joint projects proposed under the initiative show that the participating countries mainly promote measures that they also need without climate argumentation."

Russia is the 6th in the list of soot particles emitters, behind China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and the United States. In Russia, the sources of soot are forest fires, burning mazut, coal and wood in obsolete boiler, as well as obsolete diesel engines and generators.

Russia's entry into a new initiative was not easy. At preliminary stages of discussion, many officials and business representatives objected, pleading to costs.

"We pay already now, in particular, by public health, because soot is a carcinogen.” - says Alexei Kokorin. – “Of course, the reduction measures will cost, but these are not any unwanted third party costs. As a matter of fact, all this activity is already in our plans."

According to representatives of environmental NGOs, Russia's accession to the initiative to reduce the short living climate factors is a positive fact. Climate action to reduce these factors in forest management, to modernize housing sector, to eliminate methane emissions will benefit not only the environment but also the country's economy.