By Sharon Atieno

To keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius per the Paris Agreement within reach, action is required on all fronts including on the super pollutants.

This is according to Inger Andersen, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director. She was speaking at the Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Super pollutants, referred to as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), are responsible for up to 45% of global warming. They include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Scientists have found that despite these pollutants remaining in the air for a shorter period than carbon dioxide, their potential to warm the atmosphere is much greater.

“Delivering action on super pollutants gives a very big payback in terms of climate action…It is also although complex, a lower-hanging fruit than some of the other difficult shifts that we need to see as we transition away from fossil fuels,” Andersen said.

She noted that implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) including conditional ones is not enough to keep the goal of the Paris Agreement within reach. “The super pollutants are part of the answer,” she reiterated.

Indeed, the UNEP 2023 Emissions Gap Report shows that the world is headed towards a global temperature increase of between 2.5 to 2.9 degrees Celsius in this century if NDCs are implemented the way they are.

Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director

Calling on all actors including local and international governments as well as stakeholders from different sectors to play their role in actualizing climate action, Peter Dery, Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Co-Chair, observed that formulating policies and legislative framework alone is not enough in the fight against the climate crisis.

“The challenges of air pollution and climate is something that is bigger than the interest of any individual country and requires joint international action,” Dery said.

Sharing similar sentiments on the need for collective action, Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder Green Generation Initiative said, “We are glaring at a serious climate-health tipping point, it is time we move from only deliberations to taking and pushing for action towards seriously addressing clean air in our policies and investment actions coupled with enforceable monitoring measures.”

According to Wathuti, an increase in climate adversities and human drivers that promote poor air quality not only threatens human well-being but also social and economic stability.

Therefore, collective resolve is required to transition to clean and renewable energy sources, protect forests and waterways and adopt sustainable agricultural practices while confronting the addiction to fossil fuels head-on.

Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder Green Generation Initiative

The Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024 takes place from 21 to 23 February, on the margins of the Sixth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA6).

The conference gathers the CCAC’s 86 State Partners and 83 Non-State Partners to discuss the latest science and policy, share best practices, and develop a shared agenda in key emitting sectors like agriculture, waste, fossil fuels, household energy, heavy-duty vehicles and engines, and cooling.

This year’s conference focuses on moving the dialogue forward on the cost of inaction, highlighting ways to further scale up implementation of the Global Methane Pledge, Clean Air Flagship and Kigali Amendment (deals with phasing out HFCs), and collectively charting the course to 2025 and beyond.

The meeting features High-level plenary sessions on global, regional and national efforts to reduce methane, black carbon and HFCs, including the benefits of fast action, national policy and planning, and financing for implementation.

It also comprises Science Policy Dialogue sessions on the latest emerging science and how new information can inform policy development as well as technical sessions among CCAC Sector Hub members to showcase best practices in key emitting sectors: agriculture, cooling, fossil fuels, heavy-duty vehicles and engines, household energy, and waste.

Additionally, the conference has practical sessions to further refine work plans among CCAC National Consultants; Non-State Partners and Scientific Advisory Panel Members.