In an effort to protect human health and aid crop production, the World Bank is planning “aggressive action” to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants contributing to our warming world. Of the Bank’s total funding to poor countries, approximately 8 percent, or $18 billion from 2007-2012, goes to sectors such as farming, waste, transportation and energy that could ultimately cut emissions. The bank stated that policy would be shifted to insist that projects in the future include a component to reduce air pollution.
Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, explained that they would work to turn funding into aggressive action to cut pollutants. “Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world,” Kyte said.
The World Bank would research new ways to help curb methane emissions from rice irrigation, reduce pollution from public transport and improve efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns, among other things. Soot comes from sources such as diesel engines and wood-burning cooking stoves. Methane, on the other hand, comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter, such as from the digestive tracts of sheep and cattle, as well as from farming.
The focus of short-lived air pollutants is meant to coincide with efforts to cut carbon dioxide, identified by the U.N. panel of climate scientists as both the main greenhouse gas from human activities, and the main cause of global warming. Simply cutting short-term pollutants would reduce global warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) by 2040-50.
Cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health, with approximately six million people dying each year worldwide from air pollution. “First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people’s health,” Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said. Reducing pollutants “can also help rural economies, with current estimates showing the potential to save about 50 million tons of crops each year,” he said. Pollution poisons plants and blocks sunlight, stunting growth.
– Ali Warlich