Statement on 'Action on Nitrogen for Climate'
Statement from the Government of Sri Lanka with the support of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme and the International Nitrogen Management System for the Glasgow Climate Summit, COP26.
#Nitrogen4NetZero: Mobilizing action on nitrogen for climate in preperation for COP26
What is #Nitrogen4NetZero?
#Nitrogen4NetZero is a developing international initiative that highlights the need for sustainable nitrogen management as part of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The goals of #Nitrogen4NetZero are to raise awareness on the importance of nitrogen for climate action and to work with governments to prepare their positions related to nitrogen on the pathway to COP-26.
#Nitrogen4NetZero illustrates how action on nitrogen is needed to meet our ambitious global climate goals, while offering multiple benefits across United Nations conventions.
The key message is that Net Zero will be impossible to achieve without action on nitrogen. At the same time, reducing nitrogen pollution offers multiple win-wins across sustainable development for air, water, biodiversity, stratospheric ozone depletion, soils, food and the economy. These issues have been recognized by the UN Environment Assembly ‘Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management’, led by India (UNEP/EA.4/Res.14), and the 'Colombo Declaration' championed by Sri Lanka, which agreed an ambition to halve nitrogen waste from all sources by 2030, offering the potential to save US$100 billion annually.
What is the link between climate change and nitrogen management?
Reactive nitrogen appears in many forms. One of them is nitrous oxide (N2O) which is one of several harmful greenhouse gases responsible for human driven climate change. Nitrous oxide - commonly known as laughing gas - has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2). In addition to the effect to global warming, increasing nitrous oxide emissions from human sources also contribute to thinning of the ozone layer (stratospheric ozone depletion). Controlling nitrous oxide emissions requires a system wide change to the way that humans manage the global nitrogen cycle. Reaching net zero is therefore impossible without managing nitrogen pollution.
Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle is having multiple adverse impacts on climate, environment, economy and health. Sustainable nitrogen management would not only support climate mitigation and adaptation, but also provide quantifiable co-benefits for air quality, freshwater water quality, coastal zones and stratospheric ozone depletion.
What is the relation to the COP26 Campaigns and Science Themes?
#Nitrogen4NetZero is a cross cutting initiative relevant for all five of the major COP26 campaigns:
- Adaption and Resilience. Addressing nitrogen helps avoid excess crop fertilization under climate change, which would otherwise exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions,
- Nature. Nitrogen pollution threatens biodiversity with impacts on forests, wetlands, lakes and coral reefs. Sustainable nitrogen management must be a precondition for success in this UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
- Energy Transition. Bioenergy crops require fertilizer or biological nitrogen fixation, so nitrogen management is essential to avoid worsening climate threats. Ammonia (NH3) is a key hydrogen carrier as a future fuel in an emerging nitrogen economy.
- Clean Road transport. A shift to electric vehicles can substantially reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, while large combustion plants offer opportunities to develop NOx recovery technology.
- Finance. The Colombo Declaration goal to ‘halve nitrogen waste’ offers a resource saving worth $100 billion annually, mobilizing NitroFinance for the circular economy.
COP26 includes three major science themes were #Nitrogen4NetZero is equally relevant:
- Visions for Net Zero. The initiative builds on UK nitrogen science leadership with the UN, showing how sustainable nitrogen management is essential to reach Net Zero.
- Health. Sustainable nitrogen management offers benefits for health by reducing air and water pollution and stratospheric ozone depletion.
- Climate Risk Assessment. Nitrogen feedbacks affect the climate system. For example, reducing nitrogen air pollution (NOx, NH3, PM2.5) for health has a climate penalty that must be addressed alongside reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O).
What does the #Nitrogen4NetZero initiative contain?
A series of events is planned to highlight the connection between nitrogen and climate change, bringing together science and policy on the pathway to COP26.
- The initiative was launched during the Nitrogen for Climate and Green Recovery virtual event hosted by the British High Commission Colombo and the Government of Sri Lanka. The event was supported by the “GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub” (SANH), the GEF/UNEP “International Nitrogen Management System” (INMS), and the South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP). This event took place from 27-29 April 2021 and developed the #Nitrogen4NetZero proposal with the governments of South Asia, preparing the way to widen engagement on the pathway to COP26.
- Follow up events between June and November 2021 to be confirmed.
You can find more information on our events here.