On September 18, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and nine others introduced the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 (S. 2911) to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), or “super pollutants.” These emissions – including black carbon (soot), methane, and certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – currently account for 40 percent or more of global warming. They have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes but a much higher warming potency than carbon dioxide (CO2), particularly in the Arctic and other vulnerable regions.
Unlike long-lasting CO2, reductions in SLCPs would lead to short-term drops in atmospheric concentrations and could quickly reduce warming impacts. Paired with global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions to mitigate long-term warming, action on SLCPs offers important opportunities to slow climate change over the next several decades, while also providing important co-benefits to public health and food security. (For more science background on SLCPs, see this EESI Fact Sheet.)
“We are so thankful to see these two leaders come together to fashion a bipartisan solution to the enormous problem posed by these ‘super pollutants’ – a solution that offers a great opportunity for fast-action climate mitigation and improved public health,” said EESI Executive Director Carol Werner.
The bill's 11 original co-sponsors include Sen. Murphy, Sen. Collins, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The Murphy-Collins bill requires the White House to establish an interagency task force to review how federal programs and policies are or could be reducing SLCPs, as well as to identify current gaps. The bill also directs the State Department and USAID to develop more comprehensive international efforts to reduce black carbon, a form of particulate matter typically emitted from inefficient combustion of fossil fuels (particularly diesel fuel) and biomass. The bill urges EPA to ban some of the most-potent HFCs and approve climate-friendly alternatives to use as refrigerants (EPA is currently taking steps on the latter as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan). Finally, the bill directs a number of federal agencies to take steps to reduce leaks of methane gas from the oil and gas sector.
Sen. Murphy explains, “As we work to combat threats to our climate, we can’t leave short-lived pollutants out of the equation. Our bill will take these dangerous pollutants head on by making smarter use of tools already at our disposal here in the U.S.”
Sen. Collins added, “With improved interagency cooperation and through commonsense efforts to reduce the emissions of these super pollutants, this proposal aims to meaningfully and quickly help slow climate warming.”
The Senate bill is similar to a House bill introduced last year by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction (SUPER) Act of 2013 (HR 1943). The SUPER Act has 10 cosponsors, but has yet to be considered by the House Energy Committee.
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