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California Gov. Brown Announces Bold Action on Short-Live Climate Pollutants


Reducing HFCs, black carbon & methane can cut warming in half and help Post-2015 Development Agenda

New York, 24 September 2015 – Governor Brown stated this afternoon that California will announce an aggressive plan next week to cut methane and HFCs by 40 percent and black carbon by 50 percent in the next fifteen years. This bold action was revealed today at the “Contribution of Short-lived Climate Pollutants to the Post-2015 Development Agenda” event hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate pollutants (CCAC) at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“This is the path forward,” said Governor Brown, “Come hell or high water California is going to get there.”  Governor Brown announced that the California Air Resources Board will cut quantified emissions of methane from 38 to 19 MtCO2e by 2030, black carbon from 118 to 71 MtCO2e by 2030, and HFCs from 40 to 24 MtCO2e by 2030. Since 1960, California has already cut its black carbon emissions by 90%.

“California set the pace for the US and the world in cleaning up its smog and other air pollution starting in the 1960s. We have decades of experience that has given us a unique capability to cut air pollution. We arguably have more scientists and engineers working to solve climate change than the federal government,” Governor Brown continued.  “A key element of climate success is the technical capacity to carry out mitigation.”

Short-lived climate pollutants, which are contributing as much as 40 percent to the current warming rate, include black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and tropospheric ozone. Aggressive cuts to short-lived climate pollutants could avoid up to 0.6°C of warming by mid-century, a significant part of the mitigation needed to keep the planet from warming more than 2°C above pre-Industrial levels.

According to Professor Ramanathan, a panel speaker at the event, cutting SLCPs is critical to staying below the 2°C guardrail.  Over the next 40 years, 86 percent of temperature mitigation will come from SLCPs,” he explained. “SLCPs will also have a disproportionally large impact on avoiding sea-level rise because they act quickly.” According to recent research by Professor Ramanathan, aggressive cuts to SLCP can slow sea level rise by nearly a third by mid-century.

“We can’t win the climate challenge without first winning the battle against air pollution and HFCs, which can provide the fastest mitigation in the near-term,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, who attended the event. “An HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol this year could avoid the equivalent of 100 (87-146) billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by mid-century, and avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century.”

“We must also make sure that the appliances that use HFC replacements become super-efficient, because this is a huge additional piece of climate mitigation equivalent to another 100 billion tonnes of CO2, Zaelke continued. “This would provide a critical down payment of emissions reductions needed to stay below 2°C as well as an enormous confidence boost as the world moves forward to Paris at the end of the year.”

Formal proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs have now been submitted by 95 countries led by the Federated States of Micronesia.  Many other countries, including China, Brazil, and India have agreed with President Obama to support the HFC amendment. Negotiations to begin the amendment process will reconvene in the United Arab Emirates in late October.   

Cuts to short-lived climate pollutants will also provide huge benefits to global health and wellbeing. According the CCAC “targeting methane and black carbon rich sources could prevent approximately 2.4 million deaths annually…and avoid about 50 million tonnes of lost crop yields by reducing concentrations of ground level ozone.”

IGSD’s Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants is here and Primer on HFCs is here.