Displaying items by tag: SLCF
Thursday, 27 June 2013 11:18

Black Carbon

Black carbon is a fine particulate matter that belongs to a group of substances known as short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs).

Black carbon, or soot, is actually the most short-lived SLCF as it remains in the atmosphere only for a matter of days or weeks, whereas methane, the longest lived SLCF has an atmospheric lifetime of around a decade.

Published in Focus
Thursday, 03 February 2011 13:55

AMAP 24th Working Group Meeting

The 24th AMAP WG meeting was held January 19-21, 2011 in Tromsoe, Norway. The following are the key subjects discussed at the meeting.

SWIPA: Science and Layman Reports

The main focus of the meeting was the Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) project and its deliverables. A special editing group was established to integrate the changes made during the two days discussions. The major comments and revisions were made on key findings and policy recommendations on changes in the Arctic cryosphere, including the impacts of climate change on water, ice, snow, and permafrost characteristics of the Arctic. There were also made comments on the direct and indirect implications of a changing cryosphere for arctic ecosystems, economic sectors, livelihoods and living conditions of people living in the Arctic and the Earth as a whole.

The SWIPA film manuscript was presented and open for comments. While indigenous peoples and local Arctic communities will be challenged to maintain their way of life, opportunities, including increased shipping and commercial development of renewable and non-renewable resources, are expected to provide benefits for both non-Arctic and local actors.The film will show the challenges for Arctic indigenous peoples in the area of culture and livelihoods, resource extraction and sharing rights. The Permanent Participants made a note on the lack of Fenno-Scandinavia presence in the film, the use of the term “frontier”, shipping safety, access to resources and other.

The Mercury Report - status of the production
AMAP will present at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, the “2011 Assessment on the Mercury in the Arctic”. The overarching goal of the new AMAP report is to update information relevant to answering the questions “what controls mercury levels in the Arctic?” and “what are the effects on Arctic biota?” The assessment documents how mercury continues to present risks to the health of Arctic peoples and wildlife. This is a serious problem for Arctic indigenous peoples who rely on hunting and fishing for their nutritional, social and cultural well-being. Studies indicate that if no action is taken, mercury emissions from human sources are likely to increase in the next decades, but if implemented, existing technologies could significantly reduce emissions.

Denmark, on behalf of the Arctic Council, made a strong intervention on mercury as a concern for the Arctic at the 2nd session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC2) to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury, held in Japan January 2011. They referred to the work of AMAP and the key findings from the AMAP Mercury Assessment. Also on the session, AMAP was acknowledged for its work with UNEP Chemicals on an inventory of global mercury emissions to air and its important work on mercury in the Arctic.

Outreach strategies
Outreach strategies for both SWIPA and Mercury Reports were discussed. The increased focus on outreach material for the non-English speaking community and for the education of young people was welcomed, and the question of translating substances, recommendations and key findings to additional languages in order to reach out to local communities in the North was mentioned. It was suggested to work closely with the University of the Arctic in order to address the Circumpolar Universities and to hold town hall meetings in the northern communities. A need in communication experts to develop a comprehensive AMAP outreach plan and to identify a target group was expressed.

Progress Reports from Other Working Groups Attending the AMAP WG
The Short-lived Climate Forcers (SLCF) Task Force has kept major focus on black carbon. Emission inventories for black carbon are being estimated for the first time. It is a very important achievement, as improved data on emissions make it possible to make better mitigation measures. The SLCF expert group is well integrated in the work of the task force ind included into the AMAP Work Plan for 2011-2013.

The Human Health Assessment Group (HHAG) representatives Jon Øyvind Odland and Anne Regine Lager introduced their major aim, namely to survey exposure to contaminants and the possible health impacts in the circumpolar region. The group is in the process of discussing basic level cooperation between HHAG and Arctic Human Health Expert Group (AHHEG). One of the co-leads of the HHAG is going to make a presentation on human health transition at the Arctic Health Ministers’ Meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, 16th February 2011.

John Calder introduced a Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) Council Structure with 2 co-chairs and national coordinating committees, 19 countries representatives, observers, WGs and Permanent Parcticipants. SAON will continue to use secretariat at the AMAP and IASC and work with the 17 developing tasks. Sweden will meet with scientists and look for the appropriate agency to put SAON under.

Observers (European Environment Agency (EEA), WWF, China and Netherland) shared information on their work in the Arctic and the future projects. EEA is planning to organise an Indigenous Peoples’ workshop on traditional knowledge in the beginning of May 2011. Their recent report on the State of the European Environment can be found at www.eea.europa.eu

In the discussion on the cooperation with the other WGs of the Arctic Council AMAP reported on its contribution to the PAME Arctic Marine Strategy Plan and Arctic Ocean Review. AMAP noted that they support the work of Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP) and that they participate actively in the expert group.

One of the meeting days the AMAP Secretariat hosted a dinner dedicated to the 20th AMAP anniversary and presented their gifts. Russel Shearer has been welcomed as a newly elected chair for another 2 years, and Morten Olsen, John Calder and Outi Mahonen as new vice-chairs. Russia will host the next meeting to be held October 4-6, 2011 in Moscow.

Published in All News
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 14:18

Black carbon vs carbon dioxide?

What is black carbon?
Black carbon is a fine particulate matter that comes from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels like diesel and coal as well as burning of wood and crop waste. It belongs to a group of substances known as short-lived climate forcers (SLFCs).

Black carbon is actually the most short-lived SLFC as it remains in the atmosphere only for a matter of days or weeks, whereas methane, the longest lived SLCF has an atmospheric lifetime of around a decade.

Due to its short atmospheric lifetime, it is being inferred, reducing emissions of black carbon will be a way of very efficiently mitigating climate change in the near term. In contrast, cutting emissions of a long-lived gas like carbon dioxide will take very long – perhaps too long to avoid irreversible changes, as some fear – to take effect because the carbon dioxide already emitted will remain in the atmosphere for decades.

Adherents of black carbon actions carefully stress that such actions should be ”no regrets”. One way of understanding this is that actions on black carbon and other SLFCs should not be seen as competing with actions on carbon dioxide. Action on black carbon should be a near-term complement to long-term CO2 mitigation.

Recent ACAP initiative
At it’s September 2-3 meeting, the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) developed and agreed upon a terms of reference for a new project steering group (PSG) that would undertake projects on black carbon and other SLCFs.

The PSG will be chaired by the United States and Norway, Sweden and Russia will be vice-chairs of the PSG. The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), the only Arctic Council Permanent Participant to attend the recent ACAP meeting in Oslo, indicated that it is interested in participating in the PSG.  Canada, Finland, and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) likewise expressed interest in participating and others are invited to do so as well.

The PSG would set its first meeting following endorsement by the SAOs to develop project proposals on black carbon and undertake initial scoping activities so as to provide a meaningfull progress report to the next SAO and Ministerial meetings. In addition, the PSG, if approved, will closely coordinate with the Short-Lived Climate Forcers Task Force (SLCF TF) and anticipates that intermediate project deliverables would help provide additional, necessary information to the Task Force.

Arctic Council Task Force initiative
The Arctic Council Task Force on SLCF held its second meeting in Copenhagen on 9 and 10 September. The meeting was being hosted by the European Environment Agency (EEA). EEA had also offered to finance the participation of two Arctic Council Permanent Participant representatives at this meeting. However, this opportunity fell into place only a week before the meeting, that is, too late for PPs to organize participation. IPS attended the meeting as an observer.

The Task Force meeting agenda included updates from experts groups on short-lived climate forcers within the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the Convention on Long-Range Trans-boundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Furthermore, each participating country delivered updates on national concerns, priorities, and initiatives.

Following the Copenhagen meeting, the SLCF Task Force has completed a draft status report on its own work to be presented to the Senior Arctic Officials in Tórshavn in October. The Task Force is continuing its work with preparing a technical report that will comprise identification of the most important pollution sources, emission inventory estimates, and evaluation of mitigation options.

To most people, black carbon acts as a short-hand for the whole group of SLCF. In the case of the Arctic Council Task Force on SLCF, too, focus is on Black Carbon. However, according to the status report, this should not be taken to imply that black carbon is necessarily more important than methane or other SLFCs in terms of Arctic impacts.

Rather, focusing on black carbon acknowledges that the impacts of this substance are more of a frontier area of research, and that the Task Force therefore needs to conduct new technical analyses in order to inform its recommendations. There is still a lot of scientific uncertainty surrounding the question of the exact Arctic climate benefits resulting from reducing and controlling emissions of black carbon, even if it is commonly assumed that SLCFs may collectively be causing as much Arctic temperature impact as does carbon dioxide.

Thus far, the most important outcome of the Task Force’s work might well be the gathering of the first-ever compilation of nations’ black carbon emission inventory estimates. Also, the identification of residential heating – previously not considered a significant target for mitigation – is a significant new development resulting from the work of the Task Force.

No regrets
According to the draft status report, an essential aspect of black carbon mitigation is that it is “no regrets”, i.e., early measures aimed at decreasing emission makes sense not only in terms of environmental benefits but also in terms of human health as well as economically. Exposure to black carbon evidently causes cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.

From an Arctic perspective, though, the environmental dimension is relatively more important because of the impact of black carbon deposits on snow and ice surfaces. This means that, following a week’s life as an aerosol that absorbs solar radiation and heats the atmosphere, black carbon has an afterlife deposited on snow and ice, darkening their surfaces and thus increasing their absorption of radiation.

This is where indigenous peoples come in, even if – for the obvious reason indicated above - they did not show up at the meeting. According to the draft status report, health co-benefits from reducing emissions are strong in the Arctic as elsewhere. Environmental concerns, though, should be particularly emphasized in the Arctic context and with particular respect to the Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council.

According to the draft operating guidelines of the Task Force, ”Permanent Participant members of the task force should have substantive knowledge of the impacts of accelerated Arctic warming on the region.” It is perhaps worth recalling the discussion of the SLCFs at the SAO meeting in Ilulissat in April this year.

During that discussion, one Permanent Participant, the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), stressed that it wanted to be involved in the process because of the enhanced significance of actions on black carbon in the Arctic. However, AAC could not afford to attend to the inaugural meeting of the Task Force in San Francisco in February.
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Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat
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