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Reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, tropospheric ozone, HFCs and black carbon is one of the most powerful tools for curbing global warming, since these greenhouse gas emissions are more potent than carbon dioxide but live a short time in the atmosphere. Reducing SLCPs can also deliver multiple benefits for development and human well-being, supporting efforts to improve health, enhance food security and alleviate poverty.

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Why Reducing Short-lived Climate Pollutants Matters

SLCPs are a missing piece in almost all NDCs. This is a lost opportunity to make a measurable and immediate impact on global temperature rise in the near-term while producing extraordinary benefits in public health and food security for those most vulnerable to climate change. Research shows that the projected global temperature rise can be reduced by about 0.6 degrees C by 2050 and 1.2 degrees C by 2100 by making maximum use of existing, cost-effective technologies to reduce SLCPs, which are already being implemented around the world.

Simultaneously, reducing SLCPs can also deliver development, economic, health, food security, and other benefits across a range of sectors. For example, cutting methane emissions reduces levels of tropospheric ozone, which is a health hazard and harms crop yields; reducing black carbon emissions, meanwhile, can prevent premature deaths from pulmonary and respiratory diseases. The health and agriculture gains from reducing SLCP emissions are indeed among the many reasons that instituting mitigation measures for these pollutants can be closely aligned with achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Opportunities to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants

Opportunities to reduce short-lived climate pollutants are abundant across many sectors and can unlock synergistic benefits in climate change mitigation, sustainable development, public health, and food security.

Replace traditional cooking and heating with clean-burning biomass and pellet stoves; modernize traditional brick kilns and coke ovens
Reduce leakage from gas pipelines; ensure recovery and utilization of gas, methane and fugitive emissions from fossil fuel production
Ban open-field burning of agriculture waste; improve aeration of flooded rice paddies, manure management and animal feed
Separate and treat biodegradable municipal waste and landfill gas collection; upgrade wastewater treatment
Replace high climate impact HFCs with low impact alternatives

Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the opportunities associated with reducing short-lived climate pollutants are even greater. By including a focus on reducing SLCPs in national economic recovery plans from the pandemic, countries can set in place policies to meet their recovery and development aspirations in addition to limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees C. Indeed, many of the outcomes that are achieved by reducing SLCPs are highly relevant as well to achieving economic recovery goals. These outcomes include, but are not limited to, creation of direct economic benefits and cost savings to individuals, businesses, and national governments, improvement of environmental justice and equity, and promotion of food security and sustainable development.

Read: NDC Enhancement and COVID-19 Recovery: Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future

Ways to Enhance Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for Short-lived Climate Pollutants

Countries can strengthen or add:

  • Economywide GHG targets reflecting mitigation opportunities from SLCPs.
  • Ambitious economywide SLCP-specific targets (e.g., reduce economy-wide methane emissions).
  • Ambitious, sector-specific, SLCP-specific targets (e.g., reduce methane emissions from the
  • agriculture sector).
  • Non-GHG targets related to activities that reduce SLCPs, such as:
    • Residential targets (e.g., replacing traditional biomass cookstoves with modern fuel cookstoves).
    • Industry targets (e.g., replacing traditional brick kilns with improved kilns).
    • Transport targets (e.g., installing particulate filters on road and off-road vehicles).
    • Agriculture targets (e.g., banning open field burning of agricultural waste).
    • Fossil fuel targets (e.g., improving efficiency of oil and gas operations).
    • Waste management targets (e.g., achieving full separation and treatment on biodegradable municipal waste with accompanying landfill gas collection).
  • SLCP-related policies and actions.

Additional resources on climate action to reduce SLCPs

Watch our Webinar: Enhancing NDCs: Short-Lived Climate Pollutants