Kent announces new funds to reduce short-lived pollutants

Federal environment minister Peter Kent announced new funding for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in Washington Wednesday, in support of international efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants from things like cooking stoves and vehicles in the developing world.

Both federal environment minister and Alberta premier in Washington Wednesday

The Canadian government has announced another $10 million in funding for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in support of international efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants – soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbons – from things like cooking stoves and vehicle emissions in the developing world.

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the additional support for the trust fund in Washington. 

"As an Arctic nation, Canada understands the importance of addressing short-lived climate pollutants, which have an impact on the rate of Arctic ice melt," Kent said in remarks at the Canadian embassy.

The coalition backs plans to reduce pollutants from municipal solid waste, heavy duty vehicles and engines, oil and natural gas production and brick production.

While these pollutants don't persist for as long as carbon dioxide, they are considered to be responsible for half of the total climate-warming effects. They are also easier to reduce.

Proponents say that effective reduction of short-lived climate pollutants could significantly slow global warming in sensitive regions such as the Arctic, where sea ice has been receding to record lows in the summer months.

"If we can effectively contain short-lived climate pollutants, we will be addressing at least one third — perhaps more, some scientists say — of the greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming," Kent said in an interview.

$3 million to same group in 2012

Canada had previously pledged $10 million for these kinds of initiatives: $3 million to support the coalition's work and another $7 million for projects in several south American countries to reduce pollution from cookstoves, methane from landfills and fugitive emissions from oil and gas projects in Mexico.  

Each major emitter donor country was responsible for choosing its own projects in the first year, Kent said, referring to the group as "the coalition of the working."

Canada's new pledge is the largest contribution to date to this group.

Canada is also providing $2.5 million towards a centre launched by the United Nations to help developing countries find the best technology to confront the challenges of climate change.

Both contributions come from the $1.2 billion Canada pledged for "fast-start financing" for developing countries as part of Canada's commitment to the United Nations to help mitigate climate change.  This pledge was meant to represent Canada's contribution between 2009 and 2012 and Canada is under pressure to do more.

Although Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto Accord, it is still a signatory of the Copenhagen Accord and part of the UN's  umbrella agreement on climate change.

Private sector solutions

Kent is in Washington for talks at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate – a group of both developed and developing countries formed in 2009 to advance the annual UN climate negotiations by promoting clean energy and cutting climate change-causing emissions.

Kent said Canada and the other 16 countries in the Major Economies Forum are trying to hash out ways to finance developing countries' climate change efforts over the long term.

"Clearly, focusing on scaling up private investment will be key," he said.

In the interview, Kent added that international development banks have been effective in leveraging donors' funding and working with the private sector to find climate-change solutions.

Environmentalists and anti-poverty groups have criticized Canada and other countries for allowing the developing-country fund to dwindle.

Rich countries had put forward enough money to get it started, but the funding only lasted until the end of 2012. They also committed to financing by 2020 a $100-billion-a-year fund for poor countries most affected by climate change.

Kent said Canada is not leaving those countries high and dry, since the previous funding is still at work and because Canada has other development assistance that is still in place. Rather, he said donor countries need to think hard about how they would raise such a large amount of money and then put it to good use.

"We have found ... and accumulated a good deal of experience ... in leveraging private-sector investment," the environment minister said. "We're developing models that can and should be replicated."

Kent was asked about Canada's poor reputation on protecting the environment. He insisted to reporters that the U.S. government knows the efforts Canada is making in co-ordinating vehicle emissions rules and regulations for coal-fired power plants. 

"U.S. officials realize what we are committed to doing. But we have to spread that good news on a broader scale [to the U.S. public], no question," Kent said.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is also in Washington, lobbying Congress in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline. On Tuesday, anti-oilsands activists disrupted the premier's speech at the Brookings Institute think tank.

with files from The Canadian Press