Incentives for small clubs of Arctic countries to limit black carbon and methane emissions

  • Nature Climate Changevolume 8pages8590 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41558-017-0030-8
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Although addressing climate change will ultimately require global cooperation, substantial progress may be achieved through small clubs of countries, where it is easier to forge and implement deals needed for policy coordination. Here we quantify the gains from cooperation in the Arctic region and find that nearly 90% of the potential for abating black carbon can be reached by countries acting in self-interest alone because soot, the main source of black carbon, causes severe harm to human health along with warming. Abating methane, by contrast, requires more cooperation because impacts are more diffused geographically. Well-designed clubs with as few as four members can realize more than 80% of the full group cooperation potential for reducing these pollutants. The pivotal player in every effective club is Russia—most other members of the Arctic Council, the institution most focused on advancing the collective interests of the region, offer little leverage on the problems at hand.

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We thank R. Andrew for creating Fig. 2, and T. Brånå for research assistance. The study was funded by the Research Council of Norway, project no. 235548. We thank R. O. Keohane, J. Hovi, M. Amann, J. S. Fuglestvedt and A. Underdal for valuable comments, along with participants in seminars at University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, CICERO and project meetings of the SLCF project.

Author information


  1. CICERO Center for International Climate Research, Oslo, Norway

    • Stine Aakre
    •  & Steffen Kallbekken
  2. Joint Research Centre, Energy, Transport and Climate Directorate, Ispra (VA), Italy

    • Rita Van Dingenen
  3. School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

    • David G. Victor
  4. Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA

    • David G. Victor
  5. The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, USA

    • David G. Victor


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S.A., S.K. and D.G.V. conceived the study. R.V.D. computed the impact of targeted emission reductions on pollutant concentrations and exposure. S.A. monetized the impacts and collected the cost estimates. S.A., S.K. and D.G.V. performed the club analyses. S.A., S.K. and D.G.V. wrote the manuscript, with contributions from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stine Aakre.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1–13, Supplementary Figures 1–10 and Supplementary References.