Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

G7 Commits to Cut Near-term Warming by Reducing Super Pollutants

Reducing HFCs, black carbon, and methane can half rate of warming

In addition to committing to lead efforts to bring the Paris Agreement into force in 2016, the May 27th G7 leaders’ declaration committed for the first time to cutting near-term warming by phasing down short-lived super pollutants black carbon, methane, and HFCs. The leaders also committed to amending the Montreal Protocol in 2016 to phase down HFCs.

“The G7 leaders took a major step forward on climate policy by committing to cut near-term warming by reducing the super pollutants,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, and an expert on short-lived super pollutants.

“Cutting these super pollutants can cut the rate of warming in half through mid-century and even more in the fragile Arctic,” Zaelke added. “This is critical for slowing self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms, where the initial warming feeds upon itself and causes still more warming.”

For example, the unprecedented melting of Arctic sea ice, a white shield that reflects incoming solar energy back to space, has added another quarter as much warming as carbon dioxide since 1979, and much more in the Arctic.

Another self-reinforcing feedback mechanism is the northward migration of permafrost, where soil that was once permanently frozen is now melting and releasing methane that causes still more warming.

Cutting HFCs under the Montreal Protocol can provide the equivalent of up to 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide in mitigation by 2050, and avoid up to 0.5C of warming by 2100. HFCs are primarily used as refrigerants.

Improving energy efficiency of room air conditioners in parallel with the refrigerant switch away from HFCs under the Montreal Protocol can double the climate mitigation, according to calculations by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, bringing the total to 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This can save enough energy to avoid up to 1,600 medium-size power plants by 2030, and up to 2,500 by 2050.

The G7 leaders also committed to promote innovation and investment in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency to decarbonize the global economy, to phase out subsidies for dirty fossil fuels by 2025, to mobilize the $100 billion annual climate fund by 2020, and to achieve carbon neutral growth in aviation from 2020.

The White House Fact Sheet on the G7 Summit is here.

IGSD’s HFC Primer is here; IGSD’s SLCP Primer is here.

The Portuguese translation of this press release is here.