04 December, 2010

Waste management can help to close the Copenhagen Accord’s emissions gap

Sérgio Abranches

UNEP has just issued a report that collects evidence showing the role adequate waste management could have in saving greenhouse gases emissions.

Business as usual in waste management would be disastrous to climate change and to public health, UNEP’s climate change coordinator Kaveh Zahedi said yesterday at COP16. But waste management can become a major source of greenhouse gas savings, he added. The way to turn waste management into a GHG saving activity is documented on the report Waste and Climate Change: Global trends and strategy framework UNEP has just issued.

This report is linked to a previous one The Emissions Gap Report: Are the Copenhagen Accord pledges sufficient to limit global warming to 2° C or 1.5° C?, where experts have calculated the gap between the pledges to reduce emissions nations have made under the Copenhagen Accord and the Accord’s precautionary target of  2oC. The new study tries to show that waste management can help to reduce emissions of methane, at the same time generating energy and revenue.

Methane emissions from landfills are a major source of GHG from the waste sector, followed by the incineration of waste. Landfills can have gas recovery systems that  capture methane and convert it into fuel and compost. The waste management sector contributes 3 to 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, near to current emissions from international aviation and shipping, says the report.

Joseph Alcamo UNEP chief scientist points out that focusing on short-lived GHG gases such as methane could help to close this emissions gap in an effective and fast way, also yielding fast pay-offs.

The effectiveness of  waste management depends to a large extent on the Clean Development Mechanism. And CDM depends on delegates at the Climate Convention striking a deal, either approving a second period of commitment for the Kyoto Protocol, or approving a new and more encompassing treaty that also contemplates market mechanisms for financing mitigations efforts, or both.

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