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Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants through Improved Municipal Solid Waste Management

Following carbon dioxide, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), such as methane, black carbon, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons, are the most significant contributors to anthropogenic climate change, with some gases exhibiting global warming potentials several factors greater than carbon dioxide. For example, over 20 years, methane is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in raising global temperatures. As the name implies, SLCPs have short lifespans – from a few days to less than two decades – thus their impact on atmospheric warming is most significant in the near-term. In addition to their climatic impacts, many SLCPs are also harmful to human health and the environment and contribute to urban smog. Because some of these pollutants, such as black carbon, have the greatest impact near their source, communities and regions that reduce SLCPs often directly benefit through improved air quality.

While it is absolutely necessary that the international community continue to scale-up efforts to reduce carbon dioxide, efforts to reduce SLCPs can be an important component of climate change mitigation strategies in the near-term, contributing to a comprehensive strategy to achieve a long-term solution to climate change.