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Rio+20 earth summit should look to reduce black carbon through carbon trading

Delegates at the Rio+20 earth summit must look beyond CO2 to black carbon. Reducing black carbon (soot) is easier than reducing other kinds of greenhouse gas emissions. And a market-based international system to reduce carbon emissions is already in place.

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Protesters depict Mother Nature during a rally near Manila against the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development taking place in Rio De Janeiro June 20. Op-ed contributor Dennis Posadas says, 'Applying a cap-and-trade system or a suitable equivalent, such as voluntary market emissions trading, to black carbon is a logical next step.'

Aaron Favila/AP

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As delegates in Rio de Janeiro meet today for the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio summit on sustainability, there is much to talk about. One of the main items to be discussed at the Rio+20 summit is the status of carbon emissions mitigation, particularly CO2. While initiatives have targeted CO2 emissions with some success, much remains to be done, and countries must now look at other forms of carbon emissions to break the deadlock.

One of those emissions is black carbon, commonly known as soot – a recognized public health hazard and contributor to global warming. Fortunately, reducing black carbon is much easier than reducing other kinds of emissions like CO2. And a market-based international system incentivizing reduction of carbon emissions is already in place.

Anyone who has been outside in a major city for a while, especially in Asia, will notice the amount of black carbon in the air. If you stay in the streets long enough, it gets in your eyes, your hair, and even your lungs. Needless to say, this is a recognized public health hazard. Although anti-smog laws in countries like the United States and Japan have helped to mitigate black carbon emissions to some extent, poor countries have had much difficulty doing the same, despite having laws to produce the same results.

But because scientists have discovered that black carbon is also a powerful climate change causing substance, there may be a way to use climate change funds to help pay to fix the problem. In this way, both the climate impact and the public health impact can be solved together.

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