Side Event at UN Climate Negotiations in Warsaw on Short-lived Climate-Forcing Pollutants (SLCPs) in South Asia

“Reducing Short-Lived Climate-forcing Pollutants in the Himalaya region would be beneficial for hundreds of millions of citizens in the region, depending on the Himalaya for water, food production and hydropower”, stated IASS Director Prof. Mark Lawrence in Warsaw, Poland, at the Side Event “Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in South Asia: Current Scientific knowledge and ways forward to develop tailored policy recommendations”.

Air pollution is a major environmental and health concern in South Asia. It is linked to over a million premature deaths and a substantial amount of crop losses every year. It is also linked to disruptions in monsoon circulation and rainfall, regional climate change, as well as the melting of Himalayan snow packs and glaciers. As Dr. Arnico Panday from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal outlined, Addressing air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley it is important to know what fraction is locally emitted, and can be controlled locally, and what fraction comes from surrounding hills and valleys, from southern Nepal and from further away in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Similarly, it would be useful to know what fraction of the melting of the Himalayan crosphere is driven by the global increase in greenhouse gases, and what fraction is due to black carbon emitted in the region.”

Policy measures are already available, which could provide quick benefits for both, climate and air quality and thus sustainable development, as Sophie Bonnard from the Secretariat of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) stressed. The benefits of SLCP mitigation are greatest in and near areas where SLCP emissions are reduced, such as the Himalayan region where the average rate of warming is higher than the global mean warming. Positive changes would also be felt far away, as slowing the rate of warming and ice melt could also reduce the rate of sea-level rise, an issue particularly important for Small Island States, as Ali Shareef from the Ministry of Environment and Energy of the Maldives added. SLCPs are thus not only an issue in the developing world, underlined Marion Wichmann-Fiebig from the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). Even in highly industrialized regions like Europe, SLCPs are responsible for reducing the average life expectancy by approx. half a year, in addition to substantial damages to crop production.

The on-site Side Event was held on the margins of this year’s UNFCCC climate negotiations at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, moderated by Dr. Birgit Lode and Dr. Maheswar Rupakheti. It was a joint effort by the IASS, ICIMOD, the UBA, the Government of the Maldives and the CCAC, intended as an effort to catalyze the discussion and facilitate the exchange of experts working on SLCPs in South Asia. It took place on November 18, 2013 and was attended by various stakeholders, representing not only the policy and science communities but also civil society in general.

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