'Cutting carbon emissions should still be the climate priority'


Policymakers should not be overly distracted by 'short-lived climate pollutants' such as methane and soot at the expense of action carbon mitigation, an Oxford Martin School Policy Brief has recommended ahead of climate talks in Doha.

The brief, prepared by Myles Allen and Jason Blackstock ahead of the COP 18, argues that carbon mitigation, not short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), should still be top of the agenda for policy makers because powerful SLCPs like methane and soot have short lifetimes in the atmosphere, in contrast to the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide.

Unlike carbon dioxide, a large fraction of methane and soot emissions arise from activities in developing nations, such as the inefficient burning of wood and biomass in cook stoves in some of the world’s poorest communities. This has generated concern that SLCP mitigation might be inappropriately leveraged by some political interests to try to divert attention away from rich developed countries responsibility to immediately start reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

It is therefore important, argue Allen and Blackstock, to be clear on the limits of SLCP mitigation and be wary of ‘equivalence’ metrics which provide perverse incentives. Mitigation of SLCPs would complement, but cannot substitute for, near-term mitigation of CO2.

“The Science and Policy of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants” was debated in a side-event at the COP 18 meeting, supported by the Oxford Martin School.

Myles Allen, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship, and Jason Blackstock, Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, participated in this event.