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California Governor Signs World’s Toughest Super Pollutant Law

Fast action on HFCs, methane, and black carbon could avoid 0.6°C of warming by 2050

19 September 2016, California – Today California Governor Jerry Brown signed the nation’s—and the world’s— strictest law against powerful short-lived super pollutants – SB 1383 – pushing the state’s near-term climate mitigation efforts one step further.

The ambitious law requires the California Air Resources Board to begin implementing a comprehensive super pollutant reduction strategy by 2018.  The law calls for 40% reduction of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane, and 50% reduction of black carbon below 2013 levels by 2030.

Fast aggressive cuts to HFCs, methane, and black carbon can 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.

“Meeting our climate goals is a fantasy without aggressive cuts to HFCs and the other short-lived climate pollutants along with CO2,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Governor Brown understands this, and California’s new law is yet another example of the state leading the way on climate mitigation.”

Distinguished Scripps UC San Diego Professor V. Ramanathan called SB 1383 a “lifeline” for California. “SB 1383 policies that California is implementing today, if achieved worldwide, would cut the expected rate of global warming in half by 2050, save millions of lives, avoid millions of tons of crop losses per year and slow dangerous climate feedbacks such as melting ice caps and rising sea levels.  The benefits of such a policy can far exceed the cost of enacting it,” he said.

California’s new law keeps pressure on the Parties to the Montreal Protocol who will meet next month in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss the final details of an amendment to phasedown HFCs globally. Such an amendment is likely to be agreed, although it is not yet clear how ambitious it might be. A fast phase down of HFC could avoid the equivalent of 100 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050, and up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century.

Improving the efficiency of room air conditioners by 30%, alongside the phase down, could save the equivalent of an additional 100 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.  This could save enough energy to avoid building up to 1,600 medium-size peak power plants worldwide by 2030, and up to 2,500 by 2050.

The University of California’s Executive Summary of Bending the Curve: Ten scalable solutions for carbon neutrality and climate stability is here.

IGSD’s HFC Primer is here.