International cooperation to reduce black carbon and methane emissions
Alongside the UN climate change negotiations, efforts are also being made to promote international cooperation to reduce the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon (soot), methane, and other particles and gases. Their lifespan in the atmosphere is short, but as compounds they cause significant global warming, particularly in the Arctic regions. Combatting SLCPs is also highly important due to the fact that some of them are air pollutants that directly cause health risks. The efforts to reduce the emissions of SLCPs should not replace but complement other measures to combat carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the sources of methane and black carbon emissions?
The sources of methane emissions include waste management, livestock production, and the production and distribution of fossil fuels. Black carbon is formed by incomplete combustion processes e.g. in power and industrial plants using outdated technology, small-scale burning of wood, diesel-powered vehicles, flaring of excess gas at oil drilling sites, incineration of organic waste and prescribed burning of agricultural land.
International Climate and Clean Air Coalition
The international Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) was set up in 2012 to combat short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). Finland joined the CCAC in June 2012. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) serves as the CCAC Secretariat. The mission of CCAC is to promote emission reductions concerning black carbon, methane and other SLCPs. Actions by CCAC include funding for measures that reduce emissions from agriculture, heating, oil and waste.
Black carbon warms the climate especially in the Arctic region as black carbon landing on the snow and ice darkens these surfaces which in normal conditions effectively reflect solar radiation, thus accelerating the melting processes. In the warming of the Arctic emissions created in the region itself or adjacent areas have the greatest impact, but emissions created further away and transported to the Arctic may also be significant.
In the framework document concerning black carbon and methane adopted at the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in 2015 the member countries committed to reducing black carbon and methane emissions and to reporting on the emissions, measures to reduce these and projected trends . Observes are also encouraged to take part in this work. The Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane was established to monitor the achievement of the objectives set in the framework document. It compiles a joint report of the Arctic Council on the status of black carbon and methane emissions every two years.
Finland has been active in this work and has submitted the national status reports according to the agreed schedule since 2016. Research and work of demonstration projects concerning black carbon, methane and other SLCPs is also done in the permanent Working Groups of the Arctic Council.
EU and Nordic cooperation
The European Union strategy to reduce methane emissions, updated in 2020, provides the basis for targeting legislation on different sectors to take methane emissions better into account. The EU’s fourth Arctic Communication outlines the actions by the EU with respect to black carbon. The Global Methane Pledge launched at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference in 2021 on the initiative of the EU and USA aims to reduce global anthropogenic methane emissions by 30% between 2020 and 2030. About 110 countries, including Finland, have already joined the pledge.
Restricting short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) has also been frequently on the agenda of the meetings of the Nordic environment ministers and in Nordic cooperation. The environment ministers of Finland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Åland Islands have made international, regional and national initiatives to reduce SLCPs in their territories. There are also several projects related to these topics under the Nordic Council of Ministers.