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UNECE Meeting on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Amends Gothenburg Protocol

UNECE4 May 2012: The 30th Session of the Executive Body for the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) adopted amendments to the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone (Gothenburg Protocol). The amendments include national emission reduction commitments to be achieved by 2020 and beyond, and address, for the first time, particulate matter, including black carbon, a short-lived climate forcer.

According to UNECE, addressing black carbon under the LRTAP Convention will lead to health and environmental benefits, with the reduction of corrosion, haze and damage to flora, and the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation. Among the parties to the LRTAP Convention are Canada, the US, the Russian Federation and the 27 member States of the European Union.

UNECE notes that black carbon, as a short-lived climate forcer, has a stronger warming effect than carbon dioxide as it is 680 times more powerful but is less persistent in the atmosphere. Its reduction is thus expected to slow glacial melting, the reduction in polar ice mass, and associated effects such as sea-level rise.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, lauded the regulation of black carbon, noting positive impacts at the local and international levels, and underscored that the agreement for the first time “acknowledges the link between air pollution and climate change.” Under the agreement, EU emissions will be reduced by 60% for sulphur, 40% for nitrogen oxides (NOx), 30% for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 6% for ammonia and 20% for particulate matter, from 2005 levels, by 2020 and beyond. The US has provisionally said it aims to achieve a level of ambition similar to the EU.

The 30th Session of the Executive Body for the LRTAP Convention convened from 30 April to 4 May 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Session focused on options for revising the Gothenburg Protocol and its annexes. [Agenda for the 30th Session of the LRTAP Convention Executive Body] [UNECE Press Release] [European Commission Press Release]