By Urmi A Goswami, ET Bureau |
NEW DELHI: The message from the United Nations is clear: Reducing pollution will help with the efforts to slowing down the pace of global warming. Two of the United Nations’ key environment outfits have come together in a systematic manner in the effort to tackle climate change.
The UN’s two top environment bosses— the United Nations Environment Programme ( UNEP) executive director Erik Solheim and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) executive secretary Patricia Espinosa—formally agreed to work together on issues relating to pollution and climate change. The memorandum of agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly being held in Nairobi.
“There are links between pollution and climate change. If China closes its coal plants and India does the same, it is very good for pollution and will result in lower greenhouse gas emissions as well,” said Solheim.
Reducing pollution, particularly air pollution, has for many governments been the entry point to climate action. The most notable example is that of China. Beijing’s foray into climate action came close on the heels of the international focus and domestic concern over poor air quality in the major cities in 2008. This was followed up with a series of joint initiatives between the United States and China that addressed the issue of pollution in November 2009.
In the United States, then President Barack Obama put forward the clean power plan to regulate and reduce carbon dioxide pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act, the legislation dealing with air quality and pollution.
“The reality is that there is a clear linkage between pollution and climate change,” said Espinosa, adding that pollution from waste and industry was contributing to rising greenhouse gas emissions.
While there is a clear link between pollution and climate change, scientists warn against a direct link. “Cooking using traditional biomass contributes to rise in particulate matter in the air. Moving these populations to cleaner fuels like gas will mean less particulate matter but it would increase greenhouse gas emissions,” said James J Schauer, Peterson-Radar-Hawnn Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The idea driving this formal arrangement between UNEP and UNFCCC is not limited to work on pollution and climate change.
It will help deepen and formalise the existing collaborations. Espinosa explained that the UNFCCC is not an implementing agency but treaty-based body, therefore, it would work with organisations that can do work on the ground. Work done by the UN Environment Programme such as the Emissions Gap Report and the Adaptation Gap Report have become staple reference points for the climate negotiations.
This memorandum of understanding will provide an “important framework” that would give a better structure between the two organisations. Espinosa highlighted the possible collaboration in the area of finance. The UNEP has been involved in efforts to effect changes in the financial system as a whole.