Clinton Leads New Effort Against Climate-Heating Gases

Smokestacks Billowing Smoke at Paper Mill, Rumford Falls, Maine, USA. Photograph by Radius Images Close

Smokestacks Billowing Smoke at Paper Mill, Rumford Falls, Maine, USA. Photograph by Radius Images

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Smokestacks Billowing Smoke at Paper Mill, Rumford Falls, Maine, USA. Photograph by Radius Images

Public interest in climate change policy has dropped off since its 2009 peak, when nations failed to reach a comprehensive, binding legal agreement during negotiations in Copenhagen. The climate itself never got the memo.

That's why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday unveiled a new international coalition of countries that aims to curb “short-lived” climate pollutants such as black carbon, refrigerants and methane. These chemicals stay in the atmosphere for much less time than carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change, which can hang in the air for decades or centuries.

Curbing short-lived climate pollutants may reduce global warming expected by 2050 by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The world has warmed about 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1900, and temperatures are predicted to rise about 0.2 degrees Celsius a decade.

The new climate group includes the U.S., Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Bangladesh and Sweden and is overseen by the UN Environment Program. The partners have committed $15 million to start, with $12 million committed by the U.S. and $3 million from Canada over 2 years.

The announcement of the coalition wasn't accompanied by any specific goals of how much each gas should be reduced, how much the countries currently emit, or by what methods the reductions would be reached.

The announcement is not a sure-win for environmentalists, who are skeptical of efforts that are too narrow in scope and less than global in scale. ``Big emitters like the U.S. and Canada that are advancing this initiative have done very little to reduce CO2 emissions, the primary cause of global warming,'' Keya Chatterjee, director of international climate policy at World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.

The international climate group will hold its first meeting in Stockholm in April. More than 190 nations agreed on Dec. 11 to seek global deal by 2015 to reduce carbon emissions that are driving climate change, with participation for first time by the U.S., China and India, the world's three biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

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