The World Bank has said it is planning “aggressive action” to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants blamed for causing climate change.
The global lending institution’s action is also a shift meant to protect human health and aid crop growth.
Reuters newsagency quotes a bank report as saying of its funding to poor nations, almost eight per cent, $18 billion from 2007-2012, goes to sectors such as energy, farming, waste and transport that have a potential to cut emissions.
The bank said it would shift policy to insist that such projects in future, it did not predict levels of funding, included a component to curb air pollution.
“We will try to turn it (the funding) into aggressive action” to cut the pollutants, Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, told Reuters.
“Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world,” Ms Kyte said.
The bank would look for new ways to help, for instance, reduce pollution from public transport, curb methane emissions from rice irrigation, and improve the efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns.
Soot comes from sources ranging from wood-burning cooking stoves to diesel engines.
Methane comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter and from farming, for instance from the digestive tracts of cattle and sheep.
Reuters reports environment ministers at the meeting in Oslo of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, set up 18 months ago in Washington as a new front in combating climate change, also outlined projects to cut air pollution in areas from forestry to gas flaring.
The focus on short-lived air pollutants is meant to complement efforts to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities that a United Nations panel of climate scientists says is the main cause of global warming.
In a statement, members of the coalition said that cutting the short-term pollutants could reduce global warming by up to about 0.5 degree Celsius by 2040-50.
That would help achieve a goal, set by almost 200 nations in 2010, of limiting a rise in global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to avoid more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
Cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health as six million people worldwide die early every year from air pollution, it said.
“First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people’s health,” Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said.
Reuters reports pollution poisons plants and can block sunlight, stunting growth.
The coalition statement did not refer to an academic study last month that suggested the temperature benefits of an assault on the short-lived pollutants might be far less, only 0.16 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Drew Shindell of NASA, the head scientific advisor to the coalition, said that report wrongly assumed that air pollution would fall with economic growth.
“That doesn’t automatically happen,” he said.