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Rare Note of Harmony at Doha as Action Agreed on Black Carbon

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A rare note of harmony was sounded at the fractious UN climate change talks in Doha on Thursday, when countries agreed to take strong action on some of the most potent causes of global warming.

The bad news was that those causes did not include carbon dioxide. Instead, ministers from 25 countries will co-operate to vastly reduce black carbon (better known outside these talks as soot), as well as methane and ozone in the atmosphere - substances known collectively as short-lived climate pollutants.

In so doing, the members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) could cut global warming by 0.5C by 2050, which could give the world breathing space from projections of 4C to 6C of warming later this century.

Soot, when it falls on snowy areas such as the Arctic and high mountains, causes the earth to absorb more sunlight, instead of reflecting it as snow does. Reducing these substances has other benefits: countries could cut their air pollution-related deaths by as much as 2.4 million and crop losses by around 30m tonnes annually.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which helped to found the coalition, said: "Swiftly reducing short-lived climate pollutants represents a supportive and additional action with near-term benefits that need to happen anyway. Indeed for the human health and food security benefits alone, set aside the climate ones, nations need to be acting if they are serious about a transition to an inclusive green economy and realising sustainable development."
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