World climate leaders meeting in Vienna have laid the foundation for an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the global treaty that phased out ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The amendment would address climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the refrigerant chemicals that replaced CFCs but that can trap heat in the atmosphere at levels a thousand times higher than carbon dioxide and that can “undo much of our progress in reducing other carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy in a blog post.
Under the current draft of the agreement, expected to be concluded in October in Kigali, Rawanda, more affluent nations would virtually eliminate HFCs by the 2030s, whereas poorer nations would do so about a decade later.
McCarthy told Bloomberg BNA that the seriousness with which countries are taking the amendment owes in part to regulatory actions that the United States has taken under its Significant New Alternatives Policy program to drive the market for HFC alternatives.
“That’s what the SNAP program does,” McCarthy said. “So it has effectively driven domestic action that is putting the U.S. in a leadership position. We fully expect that with the actions we’ve already taken, that we’ll be able to meet the reductions that the international community will be embracing [under a Montreal Protocol amendment].”
An agreement to reduce HFC use would be the biggest single measure to curb climate change since governments adopted the Paris Agreement, thereby pledging to keep global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The HFC amendment can help avoid 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by century’s end compared with business-as-usual growth, reports Climate Change News.
Speaking Friday at the conference of parties to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the conference was as important a gathering as another he hosted on combatting the Islamic State. “What you are doing here right now,” he said, “is of equal importance, because it has the ability literally to save life on this planet.”
Climate Change and the U.S. Presidential Election
Last week, delegates to the Republican National Convention approved a party platform that downplayed use of renewable energy and rejected the Paris Agreement, a carbon tax, and other action on climate change. This week, delegates to the Democratic National Convention addressed climate change as a “real and urgent threat.”
In their party platform, Democrats described climate change as “too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science” and said government officials must take any steps they can to reduce pollution.
“We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis,” the party platform states. “We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.”
In addition to calling for a tax code that creates incentives for renewable energy, the platform aims to generate half the country’s electricity from clean sources in the next decade.
Inside Climate News presents a chart illustrating just how differently the two parties view climate and energy issues.
Emissions from Commercial Jets Next Up for Regulation
The EPA on Monday proposed an “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act for greenhouse gas emissions from certain types of airplane engines.
The proposal—which finds that airplane engines contribute to pollution that endangers public health and contributes to climate change—parallels the 2009 endangerment finding for motor vehicles under another section of the Clean Air Act and follows on the heels of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s proposed regulations to cut carbon from aircraft.
“Addressing pollution from aircraft is an important element of U.S. efforts to address climate change,” said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe, noting that aircraft are the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
No timetable was set for release of a rule regulating emissions from aircraft, but The New York Times reports that it could come in early January.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.