Image source does not exist News Release: 2016-04-11 Air Resources Board releases proposed strategy to reduce impact of powerful climate pollutants

Release #:16-13

ARB PIO: (916) 322-2990

Stanley Young
(916) 322-2990

Air Resources Board releases proposed strategy to reduce impact of powerful climate pollutants

Reductions of short-lived climate pollutants to deliver environmental, economic benefits in short term



NOTE: FOR ACCREDITED MEDIA: A teleconference call on the Proposed Strategy with CARB Chair Mary Nichols, Executive Officer Richard Corey, and Science and Policy advisor Dr. Ryan McCarthy is at:
10 a.m. PDT, Tuesday April 12, 2016 / Dial: 800-988-9707 / Code: 7349096#


The Air Resources Board today released a new draft of California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Strategy to drastically reduce the near-term climate impacts of these potent pollutants. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are chemical agents with an outsized global warming impact up to thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide.

These agents include methane, black carbon (soot) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) —chemicals most often used as refrigerants, aerosols and in insulation. Together, these pollutants represent about 12 percent of California’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory, but pose an immediate danger to the state and must be dealt with on a highly accelerated timeframe. 

“Science tells us that making cuts in emissions of these powerful climate pollutants will reduce the near-term impacts of climate change as we phase down fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “Actions to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants also improve air quality and reduce related health risks, hospitalizations, and medical expenses.”

Short-lived climate pollutants were recognized by scientists early on as major contributors to global warming, but the super pollutants took a back seat as nations first targeted carbon dioxide, the more pervasive and long lived greenhouse gas.

Now that broad reaching efforts to address carbon dioxide are underway across the globe, the international community is turning its attention to reducing the potent super pollutants -- and California is leading the way.  

Governor Edmund G. Brown emphasized the need for addressing super pollutants by making their reduction over the next decade one of the Five Pillars of the State’s 2030 climate program development. Governor Brown is also actively supporting implementation of the draft Strategy by including $215 million in his proposed 2016-2017 budget to support a range of immediate actions.

“The impact of these super pollutants is real and the fight against climate change must include a strategy to aggressively reduce them,” said Governor Brown.

The payoff for investments to cut the super pollutants will be seen in the near term --over the coming 15 years --while the larger efforts to turn the tide on carbon dioxide gain traction and ratchet down emissions over the coming decades. We now know that immediate action on cutting super pollutants in California would reduce damage to forests and crops, lower background ozone and help clean the air in the state’s most polluted regions, including the Central Valley. 

This need for focused and immediate attention on super pollutants was recognized by the Legislature in Senate Bill 605 (2014), authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).

This year, Senator Lara introduced the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Act of 2016 (Senate Bill 1383), which would codify the targets identified in this Proposed Strategy: reducing human-caused black carbon emissions by 50 percent, and methane and HFCs 40 percent below current levels by 2030.

This would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 94 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) annually under the approach that measures the impact of these super pollutants over a 20-year span. That is roughly the equivalent of the greenhouse gases associated with all the electricity (both in-state and imported) used in California in 2013.  

Short-Lived Climate Pollutants:
These pollutants trap heat at many times the level of carbon dioxide, but also tend to have a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere, ranging from a few days or weeks to about 10 years.


Methane is the most abundant of the short-lived climate pollutants in California.  Nearly 60 percent of California’s methane emissions are produced by agricultural activities, primarily at dairy farms. California is the nation’s largest dairy state, home to 20 percent of U.S. milk production, and milk is the state’s leading agricultural commodity.  In 2014, California’s dairy industry generated a record $9.4 billion – as much as the state’s almond, walnut, and pistachio industries combined.

Reducing dairy methane emissions
The Strategy calls for cutting manure methane emissions from dairies by 75 percent by 2030, which would reduce overall methane emissions from California’s dairy industry (including enteric fermentation emissions from cows) by more than 40 percent.  To meet these goals, following approval of the final Strategy, CARB will open a collaborative rulemaking process to address dairy manure emissions.  Working with CDFA, local air and water quality districts, dairy farmers, environmental justice communities, and other stakeholders – the regulatory process will consider available financial incentives and market support and potential economic impacts in order to identify appropriate timelines and requirements for the industry.

“In the San Joaquin Valley, environmental justice communities are at the epicenter of SLCP emissions and their impacts,” said Tom Frantz of the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) and member of the AB 32 Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC).  “I’m pleased to see one of EJACs priority recommendations included here.  We look forward to continuing work with state agencies and the dairy industry to achieve the goals identified in this plan, including bringing economic and health benefits to disadvantaged communities."

In addition, the Proposed Strategy also sets a goal to reduce enteric fermentation emissions from the dairy industry by 25 percent in 2030. The coordinated approach of incentives and regulation will aim to develop a competitive, low-carbon dairy industry in California, cutting overall methane emissions by more than 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030, a 50 percent reduction of dairy methane emissions.

Effectively eliminate disposal of organic waste in landfills:
The Strategy also calls for reducing methane emissions by cutting the flow of organic waste into landfills and putting it to beneficial use – through food recovery and rescue programs or by creating compost or renewable energy and fuel. This could reduce emissions from organic disposal, provide access to healthy foods in food insecure communities, and generate investment and new jobs in building and maintaining new or expanded compost and anaerobic digestion facilities. Working together, CalRecycle and CARB will have a regulation in place by 2018 to effectively eliminate disposal of organics in landfills by 2025.

“Landfills are a major source of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases warming our atmosphere. Composting and anaerobic digestion not only help reduce L.A.'s emissions, they help us move toward our zero waste goals,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “These strategies are an indispensable part of a comprehensive climate policy and my Sustainable City pLAn, and I am excited to partner with the State on this critical effort.”

The Proposed Strategy also calls for effectively implementing regulations currently under development at CARB and the CPUC to cut methane emissions by 45 percent from oil and gas exploration, extraction, pipeline and storage facilities by 2025.

Black Carbon:
California has already reduced black carbon emissions by more than 90 percent in the last 50 years, primarily through the state’s stringent diesel regulations. The Proposed Strategy highlights additional state efforts such as working with local air districts to reduce black carbon from home woodstoves to achieve an additional 3 million metric tons of reductions by 2030.  In his proposed 2016-2017 budget, Governor Brown included $40 million to incentivize clean woodstoves.

The Strategy also notes the need for further efforts to reduce black carbon from wildfires in the state’s forests, including $140 million for CAL FIRE in the Governor’s budget to support forest health and resiliency programs, approaches to foster increased private investment in forest management, and to convert larger amounts of wood waste into biofuel.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs):
The Proposed Strategy acknowledges that the most effective way to achieve significant reductions in HFC emissions is a global phase-down of their use under the Montreal Protocol. If a global agreement to do so is not reached, California will consider developing its own phasedown, as Europe has done and other countries are considering.

For short-term, Governor Brown’s proposed budget includes $20 million for incentives to replace high-GWP HFCs with more climate friendly alternatives. CARB will also develop bans on the use of high GWP refrigerants in sectors and applications where lower-GWP alternates are feasible and readily available.

Economic, Health, Environmental Analysis
The report evaluates the economic, public health and environmental justice implications of the proposed new measures along with a detailed environmental analysis.  In particular, projects that utilize organic waste or dairy manure to provide transportation fuel can capture significant value from credits under the State’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and federal Renewable Fuel Standard. 

Next Steps:
CARB will host workshops to discuss the Proposed Strategy prior to its May 19 Board hearing when staff will present the Proposed Strategy as an informational item. 

A final Reduction Strategy, including comments received on the environmental analysis, will be voted on by the Board in the fall.  Any specific proposal generating regulatory action will be subject to its own separate public process with workshops, opportunities for stakeholder discussion, consideration of environmental justice impacts, and legally required analyses of the economic and environmental impacts.

The Proposed Strategy is available here.

NOTE: FOR ACCREDITED MEDIA: A teleconference call on the Proposed Strategy with CARB Chair Mary Nichols, Executive Officer Richard Corey and Science and Policy advisor Dr. Ryan McCarthy is at:
10 a.m. PDT, Tuesday April 12, 2016 /  Dial: 800-988-9707 / Code: 7349096#

ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.