The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC)

Birgit Lode
August 28, 2013


The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC or the Coalition) was established in February 2012 as an international effort to maximize the health, agricultural and climate benefits of swift action on short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs are atmospheric substances which have relatively short lifetimes in the atmosphere. They include tropospheric ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM), especially black carbon, as well as methane (CH4) and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Scientific studies show that air pollution and climate conditions are closely interlinked and pose serious human health, natural resource and climate stability risks. Mitigation of SLCPs has the potential to quickly improve air quality and at the same time slow the rate of near-term climate change.[1]

This Insight will first review the establishment of the CCAC, addressing its functioning and work to date. It assesses the CCAC's mission and its relationship to efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It will then describe the CCAC's structure as a voluntary, multi-stakeholder forum within the United Nations (UN). Finally, it will assess the implications of the Coalition's launch for international organizations and environmental law, and whether it is an effective response to the closely linked challenges of improving air quality and mitigating climate change.


On February 16, 2012 then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally announced the formation of the CCAC in Washington, D.C. Besides the United States, the founding coalition partners included Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Coalition held its first ministerial meeting in April 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden, during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment. There, Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, the European Commission and the World Bank joined. Five other countries as well as delegates from the private sector attended the meeting as observers.[2] Non-state entities qualifying for CCAC membership include intergovernmental organizations or initiatives; international organizations and their subsidiaries; and private sector entities and civil society organizations.[3] The CCAC membership has grown to 34 State and 33 Non-State Partners[4]– with further countries, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations expressing interest in joining.

To join the Coalition, a prospective Partner sends a letter to the Executive Director of UNEP. A State applicant identifies its particular areas of interest related to SLCPs and any specific actions taken or planned to address near term climate change. Non-state entities are encouraged to also present in their application letter a statement of their willingness and capacity to contribute to the work of the coalition and support its objectives and initiatives. If in a position to do so, the potential State or Non-State Partner is asked to indicate that it intends to make contributions of financial or other resources to support the Coalition's activities. All Coalition partners have committed themselves "to control and to reduce SLCPs, including in their own countries," while still "[r]ecognizing the central importance of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, including through national action and multilateral cooperation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."[5] The Coalition is pursuing quick-start actions under an initial tranche of nine initiatives. Most of these focal areas are intended to reduce emissions in specific sectors (transport, brick production, municipal solid waste disposal, and oil and gas production). There are three cross-cutting initiatives including all substances and sectors: Financing SLCP Mitigation; Promoting SLCP National Action Plans and Regional Assessments for SLCPs.[6]

The Coalition is already engaged with an initial group of ten major cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Lagos, Stockholm, Accra, and New York to accelerate reductions of methane from landfills and black carbon from burning wastes. In addition, work to develop national SLCP action plans has started in Ghana, Mexico, Colombia, and Bangladesh.[7]

The CCAC Partners' commitment to fast reduction of SLCPs is intended to be complementary to their efforts to reduce CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gas emissions—in particular, State Partners' actions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). If tackled properly, this approach could fill the regulatory gap until 2020 when a new agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC applicable to all Parties may come into effect and start to be implemented. Until then, fast action to mitigate SLCP emissions could help slow the rate of climate change and improve the chances of staying below the 2°C target in the near term. The CCAC's attempt is aimed at working in parallel with immediate CO2 reduction as long-term climate protection will only be possible if deep and permanent cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are also realized rapidly.

The CCAC Governance Structure

The CCAC is a "voluntary international framework" where "each Partner individually determines the nature of its participation" and its constitutive document, the Coalition Framework, "does not create any legally binding obligations between or among its Partners."[8]

The CCAC Assembly takes stock of progress and plans future efforts. It is a high-level meeting of the Coalition Partners comprised of Ministers of State Partners and Heads of non-State Partners. Assembly meetings are to be held at least annually and are open to Partners and any other stakeholders approved by decision of the Coalition. Stakeholders approved by consensus of the State and regional economic integration organization (REIO) Partners of the Coalition may attend the meeting as observers. At the last meeting of the Assembly during the Doha climate conference in December 2012, two countries that were not yet Coalition Partners were thus able to observe the meeting.[9]

The CCAC Working Group, consisting of representatives from all Partners, is in charge of overseeing cooperative actions. Its co-chairs, currently Nigeria and the United States,[10] must be States or REIOs. It is expected to meet at least twice a year.

A smaller Steering Committee provides oversight, support and recommendations to the Assembly and the CCAC Working Group. Only states and REIOs have voting privileges. It is formed by eight elected CCAC Partners: the two Co-Chairs of the Coalition Working Group; four other State or REIO Partners; and two non-voting representatives, one from an international organization and one from a non-governmental organization.

The Scientific Advisory Panel is responsible for providing advice as requested by the Coalition on scientific matters related to SLCPs and near term climate change. The Panel currently consists of 9 scientists, selected on the basis of suggestions by CCAC Partners and their subsequent nomination and approval by the CCAC Working Group.[11]

The CCAC Secretariat, at present, comprises two full time staff members for day-to-day functions. Their tasks include facilitating communication between Coalition Partners, preparing the meetings of CCAC bodies, and managing the Coalition Trust Fund.

This "partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, representatives of the private sector, the environmental community, and other members of civil society"[12] has significant direct ties to the UN, inherent in its governance structure. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosts the CCAC Secretariat at its Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in Paris, and UNEP, in accordance with UN rules and regulations, manages the CCAC Trust Fund. UNEP is a non-state Partner and a non-voting representative of the Steering Committee and UNEP's Chief Scientist is an ex officio member of the Scientific Advisory Panel.

Implications for International Environmental Law and Institutions

The nature of the CCAC has implications for international environmental law and its institutions. With its non-treaty based structure and its characterization as a "voluntary initiative," the Coalition itself cannot be categorized as an international organization possessing its own legal personality. Rather, it has the status of a new initiative within UNEP, which is itself not an international organization.[13] The fact that half of the Coalition's current Partners are non-state entities indicates progress away from state-centered international cooperation.

The CCAC's strong liaison with the UN and its fast growth suggest that it may eventually become independent of UNEP. That could help overcome a present shortcoming: CCAC's current limited focus on catalyzing "concrete and substantial action" to reduce SLCPs in the atmosphere. As an independent institution under the auspices of the UN, the Coalition might fully use the potential described in its Concept Paper, to "develop, disseminate and promote model regulations and standards."[14] On the other hand, changes in this respect would almost certainly result in the loss of the Coalition's current advantages of being a fairly flexible and purely voluntary multi-stakeholder forum and thus, though within the framework of the UN, not subject to lengthy coordinating processes and negotiations.

The CCAC approach to NGO participation is quite different from the UNFCCC procedures. UNFCCC observers may be barred from participation in the proceedings if at least one third of the parties present object. The Coalition's non-State Partners participate by right in Coalition Assembly and Working Group meetings though still limited as non-voting members.[15] However, the fact that the Coalition refers to both its State and non-State members as "Partners," while the UNFCCC uses "observer organization" for non-State entities admitted to attend its sessions, clearly underlines the different approaches to the participation of non-State actors.

Furthermore, developments like the establishment of the CCAC, which adds complexity to the multi-layered range of diverse organizations and institutions in one way or another addressing climate change issues, may in the long run spur a transformation regarding the requirement of legal capacity for actors on the international plane.[16] In order to enhance flexibility, promote innovative approaches, and avoid lengthy processes in established, state-only regimes, the need for cooperation and coordinated responses to present and emerging global challenges is growing. At a certain point this requirement may become so pressing and urgent that the already shifting state of relevant actors on the international scene will undergo fundamental changes – which then, may render the current legal system capable of continuing to deal with our ever-increasing multi-layered, complex earth system.

The CCAC may assume a key role in supplementing the UNFCCC process, which does not address all causes of climate change and which is currently almost halted due to political rifts. Parallel attempts to tackle global warming outside the UNFCCC could enable the global community to achieve its ultimate objective, namely, the prevention of dangerous anthropogenic climate change.[17] This is particularly true given the Coalition's focus on black carbon, a substance not included in the Kyoto Protocol, although the second most powerful climate pollutant after carbon dioxide,[18] and the fact that the actions also provide co-benefits for human well-being, especially public health.

Hence, if the CCAC's joint and coordinated action helps overcome the existing fragmentation of efforts to fight global warming, the CCAC will significantly contribute to addressing the breadth and complexity of the climate challenge. Its flexible and voluntary nature and its present focus on action are expected to be more efficient than complex and lengthy negotiation of a legally binding agreement. The CCAC attempts to fill the current legislative vacuum—the absence of a legally binding agreement under the UNFCCC applicable to all Parties—first, with targeted actions allowing incremental, near-term reductions in radiative forcing, and later, perhaps by underpinning these actions with model regulations and standards on the national, regional and international scale. The Coalition has the potential to play a significant part in responding to the linked challenges of mitigating climate change and improving air quality.


About the Author:

Dr. Birgit Lode, an ASIL member and active member of the ASIL International Environmental Law Interest Group, is a Project Leader at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, and guest lecturer at the TU Dresden and the University of Potsdam, Germany. She serves as the IASS Focal Point to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

The author would like to thank Sophie Bonnard and Kaveh Zahedi from the CCAC Secretariat for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this Insight.


[1] See e.g. UNEP and WMO, Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone (2011), available at; UNEP, Near-term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits (2011), available at
[2] See UNEP, New Climate and Clean Air Coalition Expands to 13 Members (April 24, 2012),
[3] Non-State Partners must provide a demonstration of their international character as well as a statement on their accreditation status to UN organizations or bodies, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, or their participation in the UN Global Compact. See CCAC, How to Join, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013).
[4] See CCAC, Partners, (last visited Aug. 27, 2013).
[5] See generally CCAC, About the Coalition Framework, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013) (detailing the structure and objectives of the Coalition).
[6] See CCAC, Actions, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013) (detailing initiatives to promote near-term SLCP reduction and cross-cutting efforts to accelerate emissions reductions across all short lived climate pollutants); see also CCAC, Partners, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013) (Detailing types of Coalition Partners).
[7] See CCAC, Ministers from 25 Nations Commit to Scaling Up Voluntary Action to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Dec. 6, 2012),
[8] See Global Green Growth Institute, Overview, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013).
[9] See CCAC, HLA, Chair Summary, Doc. HLA/DEC2012/5 (Dec. 6, 2012) (on file with author).
[10] See, e.g., CCAC, Working Group Meeting, Paris, Co-Chair's Summary, Doc. WG/NOV2012/21 (Nov. 8-9, 2012) (on file with author).
[11] See CCAC, Teleconference, Report (May 30, 2012) (on file with author); CCAC, Working Group Meeting, Paris, Chair's Summary, (July 23-24, 2012) (on file with author); CCAC, Climate and Clean Air Coalition Marks One Year Anniversary (Feb. 20, 2013),
[12] CCAC Coalition Framework, supra note 5.
[13] As a program under the UN General Assembly, UNEP is not an international organization, i.e., an entity established by an instrument governed by international law, capable of generating through its organs an autonomous will distinct from the will of its members. See, e.g., Kristen Schmalenback, International Organizations or Institutions, General Aspects, in The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law  (R. Wolfrum ed., 2008), available at
[14] CCAC, Concept Paper, Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants, (last visited Aug. 26, 2013).
[15] UNFCCC, Draft Rules of Procedure of the Conference of the Parties and its Subsidiary Bodies, Doc. FCCC/CP/1996/2 (May 22, 1996), Rule 7(2), available at
[16] Cf. Markus Wagner, Non-State Actors, in The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (R. Wolfrum ed., 2008), available at
[17] Cf. Daniel Bodansky, Multilateral Climate Efforts Beyond the UNFCC (November 2011),
[18] Cf. Tami C. Bond et al., Bounding the Role of Black Carbon in the Climate System: A Scientific Assessment, in Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres (forthcoming Jan. 15, 2013), unedited online version available at