The road towards reduced emissions of black carbon include applying the best available technologies and practices, developing new technologies, and ensuring that the policy context provides incentives for action.
The role of black carbon in climate change is a relatively new policy issue even though there has been a history of regulating air pollution from small particles Policy processes related to black carbon include high-level political statements as well as commitments to reduce emissions, and national, international and sector-specific efforts to support new technologies and practices.
The major forum for international policy discussions related to black carbon in the Arctic is the Arctic Council. Conventions and international collaborations with a broad international engagement are the UN-ECE Convention of Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) with its Gothenburg Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the accompanying assessment processes by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Other collaborative fora include the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the newly launched global forum for international cooperation on air pollution.
A major task for the final year of the EU funded Action on Black Carbon in the Arctic is to produce an indicative roadmap for enhanced international cooperation on black carbon and contribute to broad commitments to black carbon emissions reductions to protect the Arctic. The roadmap will propose efforts to integrate policy initiatives across the different national and international fora and sectors that are engaged in black carbon issues, with the Arctic Council and the Air Convention as key priorities. The roadmap’s timeline will be from 2020-2030 with short-term (2-3 years) and longer term (up to 10 years) strategies being used. Another purpose of the roadmap is to identify further needs for technical and scientific work that can support policy development, including needs related to scenario development, mitigation options, reporting/inventories, monitoring and best available techniques.
At the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting held in Fairbanks, Alaska in May 2017, member states (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States) adopted an aspirational goal to collectively reduce black carbon emissions by at least 25-33 percent below 2013 levels by 2025. The recommendation was based on the Council’s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane. Arctic Council countries report emissions to this expert group, which issues a detailed report with recommendations every two years, with the latest being in 2019.
The AMAP Working Group under the Council has an Expert Group on short-lived climate forcers, which prepares scientific assessments and summaries for policy makers of the latest scientific information. The most recent report is AMAP Assessment 2015: Black carbon and ozone as Arctic climate forcers. Work on an updated assessment is ongoing with expected publication in early 2021.
The ACAP Working Group has developed a Black Carbon Case Studies Platform to facilitate sharing of insights and best practices across the region. ACAP has also published several reports about specific measures to reduce black carbon emissions from sources within the Arctic.
CLRTAP (the Air Convention) under the United Nations Economic Commission to Europe (UN-ECE) includes parties from Europe and North America to develop policies and strategies to cut emissions of air pollutants. Among its different processes are negotiations related to its Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone. The Gothenburg Protocol to CLRTAP, as amended in 2012, calls for Parties to voluntarily submit black carbon emissions inventories and projections using guidelines developed by the CLRTAP Task Force on Emission Inventories and Projections. The Gothenburg Protocol also includes attention to small particles, so-called PM2.5 (particulate matter of size 2.5 micrometres). Because black carbon occurs as very small particles and is part of PM 2.5, efforts to reduce PM2.5 would also reduce emissions of black carbon.
An important aim of the EU funded Action on Black Carbon is to support CLRTAP to take policy action and provide data for emission inventories and scenarios. The amended Gothenburg Protocol is currently undergoing a review where it is possible to submit formal or informal documents to the Convention’s Working Group on Strategies and Review (WGSR), which convenes in May 2020. The group evaluates scientific and technical activities relating to the CLRTAP protocols, negotiates amendments and drafts new protocols, promotes technology exchange, and drafts proposals for strategic development in the framework of the Air Convention. Members from the EU funded Action on Black Carbon are involved in the work of the WGSR. The Action also engages with the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the long-range transport of air pollutants with the aid of emission inventories, measurements and model calculations, and the CLRTAP Working Group on Effects (WGE).
In December 2019, on the occasion of the Air Convention’s 40th Anniversary, the parties to the convention launched a forum for international cooperation on air pollution to support international exchange of information and mutual learning on both the technical and policy levels. It is intended to be a repository for technical information and a convener of countries and organizations, facilitating increased international cooperation on this critical challenge. The EU funded Action was invited to organize a side-event at this meeting titled: “Eye on Black Carbon in the Arctic” to engage with parties to the Air Convention to raise the profile to take further policy actions on black carbon. The event was well attended with many excellent recommendations given which will be helpful in preparing the roadmap.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
UNFCCC is the major forum for international political cooperation to reduce climate change. Black carbon is not covered by current commitments under the UNFCCC but has more recently received attention in IPCC.
IPCC’s fifth assessment (AR5) includes attention to black carbon in Working Group (WG) III’s discussion of mitigation options, e.g. with attention to the co-benefits in relation to improving air quality and as a potential short-term mitigation strategy in combination with long-lived greenhouse gases. The role of black carbon in climate forcing is discussed by WG I in its 2014 report, including attention to its impact on surface albedo when deposited on snow and its climate forcing role as an aerosol.
In 2019, the IPCC approved that its Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories produce an IPCC Methodology Report on Short-lived Climate Forcers, including black carbon. The overall objective is “to fill gaps in existing methodologies and to develop and disseminate an internationally-agreed, globally applicable methodological guidance based on existing methodologies.” The process creates a platform for paying more attention to black carbon in future IPCC assessments and in climate negotiations under the UNFCCC.
The IMO works with regulations to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from shipping. Within this context, it has initiated investigations of the role of black carbon from shipping and potential abatement technologies to reduce emissions. Read more under “Maritime shipping”.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations committed to improving air quality and protecting the climate through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including black carbon. It began in 2012 based on the premise that measures targeting short-lived climate pollutants could achieve “win-win” results for the climate, air quality, and human wellbeing over a relatively short timeframe.
World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) Partnership and the Zero Routine (Gas) Flaring Emissions by 2030
Partnership is a public-private initiative comprising international and national oil companies, national and regional governments, and international institutions. It works to increase use of natural gas associated with oil production by helping remove technical and regulatory barriers to flaring reduction, conducting research, disseminating best practices, and developing country-specific gas flaring reduction programs. The EU funded Action on Black Carbon is collaborating with the World Banks’ GGFR to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic from gas flaring from oil and gas operations. All the oil and gas producing countries in the Arctic (Canada, Norway, Russia and United States) are members of the GGFR Partnership.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The OECD brings together member countries (currently there are 36 including many EU countries) and partners which collaborate on key global issues at the national, regional and local levels. The EU-funded Action on Black Carbon is working closely on an OECD-led study on economic consequences from black carbon mitigation, which includes the Arctic. The EU-funded Action provided baseline and mitigation scenarios in support of this OECD study which is expected to be completed by late 2020.