Burning trees for energy delivers a one-two punch against climate change mitigation efforts. Harvesting woody biomass reduces the sequestration potential of forest carbon sinks, while the combustion of woody biomass releases large quantities of carbon into the air. Forest regrowth may not offset these emissions for many decades —well beyond the time the world has left to slow warming to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. With little time left to achieve a sustainable and inclusive future, burning forests for energy contributes to warming in the near-term and is not a viable climate solution
This article begins with an overview of the scientific background of why harvesting and burning forests for energy is not a viable solution to climate change or related challenges. This background section includes an explanation of key terminology used in the article. The next section presents the European Union (EU)’s Renewable Energy Directive as a case study on the consequences of including bioenergy in renewable energy policies. Following the case study, the article examines bioenergy policies in the United States and China—the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. The article concludes with policy recommendations to focus government action towards reducing reliance on energy from forest biomass. These recommendations are that governments: (1) re-evaluate their bioenergy policies and ensure lifecycle accounting of forest bioenergy’s climate emissions associated with harvesting and burning forest biomass; (2) end incentives for harvesting forests for fuel and invest in forest preservation, low-emission energy, and low energy demand pathways; and (3) advance international consensus on the harms from forest bioenergy, specifically the impact on climate and biodiversity.
Environmentally harmful product dumping (“environmental dumping”) of new and used low-efficiency cooling appliances with obsolete ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas refrigerants in African countries impoverishes communities, hinders economic development, threatens ecological systems, and harms public health. The use of lowefficiency cooling appliances increases energy demand, leading to higher power plant emissions and limiting affordable energy access in African countries. These low-efficiency appliances and products contain ozone-depleting refrigerants with high global-warming potential (GWP) or ozone-safe refrigerants with high GWP. Environmental dumping of these appliances and products makes it more difficult for countries to meet their international climate obligations and for the world to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate change mitigation targets. Ghana faces high levels of environmental dumping, despite a national ban on importing used cooling appliances and established efficiency standards for new air conditioners and refrigerators. Through the Energy Commission’s Office of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, & Climate Change (REEECC), the government of Ghana is partnering with the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) to stop environmental dumping. This article provides a list of interventions that can be implemented by Ghana, by governments in countries that export to Ghana, and by industry and other stakeholders. Notably, these actions focus on the shared responsibility of exporting countries and manufacturers by calling on exporting countries to update and enhance enforcement of their laws, and on global manufacturers to stop exporting inefficient products with obsolete refrigerants to Ghana and other African countries.
The ongoing and projected impacts from human-induced climate change highlight the need for mitigation approaches to limit warming in both the near term (<2050) and the long term (>2050). We clarify the role of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and aerosols in the context of near-term and long-term climate mitigation, as well as the net effect of decarbonization strategies targeting fossil fuel (FF) phaseout by 2050. Relying on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change radiative forcing, we show that the net historical (2019 to 1750) radiative forcing effect of CO2 and non-CO2 climate forcers emitted by FF sources plus the CO2 emitted by land-use changes is comparable to the net from non-CO2 climate forcers emitted by non-FF sources. We find that mitigation measures that target only decarbonization are essential for strong long-term cooling but can result in weak near-term warming (due to unmasking the cooling effect of coemitted aerosols) and lead to temperatures exceeding 2 °C before 2050. In contrast, pairing decarbonization with additional mitigation measures targeting short-lived climate pollutants and N2O, slows the rate of warming a decade or two earlier than decarbonization alone and avoids the 2 °C threshold altogether. These non-CO2 targeted measures when combined with decarbonization can provide net cooling by 2030 and reduce the rate of warming from 2030 to 2050 by about 50%, roughly half of which comes from methane, significantly larger than decarbonization alone over this time frame. Our analysis demonstrates the need for a comprehensive CO2 and targeted non-CO2 mitigation approach to address both the near-term and long-term impacts of climate disruption.
Scientific studies show that fast actions to reduce near-term warming are essential to slowing self-reinforcing climate feedbacks and avoiding irreversible tipping points. Yet cutting CO2 emissions only marginally impacts near-term warming. This study identifies two of the most effective mitigation strategies to limit near-term warming beyond CO2 mitigation, namely reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and promoting targeted nature-based solutions (NbS), and comprehensively reviews the latest scientific progress in these fields. Studies show that quickly reducing SLCP emissions, particularly hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and black carbon, from all relevant sectors can avoid up to 0.6 °C of warming by 2050. Additionally, promoting targeted NbS that protect and enhance natural carbon sinks, including in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands, can avoid emissions of 23.8 Gt of CO2e per year in 2030, without jeopardizing food security and biodiversity. Based on the scientific evidence, the paper provided a series of policy recommendations on SLCPs and NbS.
The IGSD Primer on Cutting Methane provides decision-makers with clarity on the science of methane mitigation and why action is urgently needed; current and emerging mitigation opportunities by sector; national, regional, and international efforts that can inform emergency global action on methane; and financing initiatives to secure support for fast methane reduction. This Methane Primer provides the scientific and policy rationale for decision-makers to achieve the “strong, rapid, and sustained” cuts to methane emissions necessary to slow global warming in the near term and limit the risk of triggering tipping points. The Methane Primer also supports the need for research and development of technologies to remove methane from the atmosphere at scale.
Demand for hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances is growing in India and is estimated to continue growing at a high rate through the middle of this century. HFCs, although not directly ozone-depleting, are highly potent greenhouse gases subject to a global phasedown under the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. As of 20 January 2022, 130 Parties have ratified the Kigali Amendment, including India. This analysis evaluates scenarios for India’s HFC demand trajectory compared to likely control obligations under the Kigali Amendment. It is based on current and projected markets for HFC-using equipment and types of refrigerants utilized now and likely to be used in the future. Sectors considered in this work include mobile air conditioning, stationary air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam blowing agents. Results suggest that India’s annual HFC demand under current market trends could reach 76 MMT CO2-equivalent (CO2e) in 2030 and 197 MMT CO2e in 2050, from 23 MMT CO2e in 2020, making no changes to the current mix of HFCs in use. The Kigali Amendment requires for compliance that India freeze its HFC consumption in 2028 at a projected level of 59–65 MMT CO2e and phase down progressively over the following 29 years; in that case, annual Indian HFC demand would peak in 2030 at a projected 57 MMT CO2e and fall to 8 MMT CO2e by 2050. This trajectory would avoid cumulative HFC use of 2.2 GT CO2e through 2050 versus the current market trends. If actions are taken to accelerate the refrigerant transition in stationary air conditioning by five years, India could peak its annual HFC demand by 2028 at 40 MMT CO2e and avoid additional cumulative HFC demand of 337 MMT CO2e between 2025 and 2050, exceeding its obligations under the Kigali Amendment.
This paper describes how the Ghana Energy Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ozone Unit have joined forces in a comprehensive strategy to access and implement low-global warming potential (GWP) and energy-efficient cooling technologies that protect the Earth’s climate and stratospheric ozone layer. This strategy, in line with the objectives of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol): 1) integrates upgraded energy efficiency labels with refrigerant metrics; 2) strengthens minimum energy performance standards (MEPS); 3) prohibits the dumping of used cooling appliances; 4) uses the OzonAction informal Prior Informed Consent (iPIC) mechanism to facilitate communications among national authorities on the import and sale of appliances containing or using obsolete refrigerants scheduled for phase out or phase down under the Montreal Protocol; and 6) asks Parties to the Montreal Protocol to enact and enforce regulations that help stop the dumping of used and new cooling equipment in export-market countries wanting to leapfrog obsolete appliances that waste energy and force climate change.
This evaluation identifies the 12 papers that formed the scientific foundation for the Montreal Protocol parties to take bold steps to phase down HFCs via the Kigali Amendment. These thoroughly researched and clearly presented scientific papers, which were among those contributing to SAP presentations at Meetings of the Parties and were directly read and considered by treaty negotiators from party countries, made the link between HFCs and climate change apparent and persuaded skeptics and stakeholders to take action. All told, the coauthors of these dozen papers include about 40 scientists from 10 countries, reflecting the substantial degree of international attention to the problems posed by HFCs and scientific collaboration to address them.
Today, built into each cooling appliance and insulating foam in nearly every household, building, and car in America and across most of the world, there sits a type of fluorinated gas called a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and/or a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). When leaked out into the atmosphere, HCFCs cause the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer and both HCFCs and HFCs are extremely potent climate warmers.
There is a huge opportunity for chemical producers, equipment manufacturers, federal and state policymakers, major corporations, and maintenance professionals to come together to prevent as many of these potent chemicals as possible from making it into the atmosphere. This report makes a first attempt at laying out the starting point for an approach, referred to here as Lifecycle Refrigerant Management (LRM). LRM focuses on avoiding and reducing refrigerant leaks, promoting refrigerant recovery, and increasing reclamation rates to mitigate unnecessary refrigerant use and emissions.