EESI - SUPER Act to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants Introduced by Rep. Scott Peters
On May 9, Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction (SUPER) Act of 2013 (HR 1943). The bill seeks to curb emissions of “super pollutants” in order to slow climate change, protect public health, and provide economic opportunities. Super pollutants, also known as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), include methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and tropospheric ozone.
Though not as abundant as carbon dioxide emissions, SLCPs are much more potent drivers of climate change and have collectively contributed up to 40 percent of observed global warming to date. SLCPs have average atmospheric lifetimes ranging between two weeks and 12 years, making it possible to drastically decrease atmospheric concentrations (and overall climate impact) of these pollutants within a generation. This would buy time for the climate, though carbon dioxide reductions remain the most important strategy to stave off long-term climate change impacts.
SLCP emissions also contribute to lower air quality, leading to significant public health impacts. One study estimates that reducing tropospheric ozone and black carbon worldwide can prevent as many as six million deaths per year. “This bill comes at a perfect time,” said Dr. V. Ramanathan, professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “Science has informed us it is still not too late to slow down the warming in the coming decades by a factor of two if we act now.”
The bill would establish a federal task force to reduce SLCPs emissions in the United States. The task force would review existing federal, state, and local policies, laws, and regulations for overlapping or inefficient efforts, and then use this information to propose a more cohesive and effective system to reduce SLCPs. A coalition of 181 non-governmental organizations and foreign policy experts sent a letter to the Obama Administration in December calling for such an SLCP task force.
In addition to climate and public health benefits, SLCP mitigation can be cost-effective. At a recent Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) briefing, Rep. Peters (pictured) and other speakers discussed projects that harness methane from landfills to create energy. These projects reduce methane leaking into the atmosphere, with the resulting energy sold at a profit. Capturing even a fraction of these emissions provides important climate and health benefits; converting the gas to energy offers economic savings, diversifies a community’s energy portfolio, and lowers dependence on fossil fuels.