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Bridging the gap – The role of short-lived climate pollutants

The goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, as agreed at the Conference of the Parties in 2015, is to keep global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It also calls for efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The ‘emissions gap’ is the difference between the emission trajectories resulting from implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and the trajectories associated with emission scenarios that are consistent with temperature targets, such as the 2°C target. This chapter outlines the opportunities to reduce the emissions gap afforded by limiting emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna / Published on 1 November 2017

UNEP (2017). The Emissions Gap Report 2017. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi

Strategies to reduce SLCPs will typically target methane, tropospheric ozone, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons. Other short-lived climate forcers, such as sulphur dioxide and organic carbon, lead to cooling and are therefore not targeted. These SLCP reduction strategies will sometimes affect only a single pollutant, for example intermittent rice irrigation affects methane alone. Nonetheless, most strategies to reduce SLCPs will affect multiple pollutants. It follows that an evaluation of mitigation measures must examine emissions of both long-lived GHGs and all SLCPs, to assess the net impact on warming.

Sustained SLCP reduction strategies can help limit long-term warming, especially when combined with CO2 reduction, and therefore contribute to closing the emissions gap.

About the report

The UN Environment Emissions Gap Report 2017 presents an assessment of current national mitigation efforts and the ambitions countries have presented in their Nationally Determined Contributions, which form the foundation of the Paris Agreement.

The report has been prepared by an international team of leading scientists, assessing all available information. The governments of countries mentioned specifically in the report have been invited to comment on the specific assessment findings; independent experts have also been invited to review the different chapters.

SEI author

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna

Reader / Research Leader

SEI York

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