The costs associated with reducing short-lived climate pollutants are similar to the costs of reducing other greenhouse gases. Costs can vary depending where they come from and the available technologies to reduce those emissions. Typically, they will be lower for reductions achieved through efficiency improvements or using substitutes that emit less carbon—these options may even generate a net savings. For example, achieving energy efficiency in buildings and appliances costs less than reducing the carbon intensity of power plants, where capital-intensive technologies that need to be installed may take more time.
In addition, emissions from a fixed, identifiable source present more cost-effective emissions reduction options than other diffuse emissions sources. For example it is easier to address, fugitive emissions from a single building than emissions from mobile, fossil-fuel burning cars and trucks. Actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere can also help reduce high global warming gases.
Policy Actions on High GWP Gas and SCLP Mitigation
Climate and Clean Air Coaliation (CCAC)
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) is a cooperative public-private initiative that promotes national and international action but establishes no legal obligations or authorities. Formed in 2012, the coalition includes the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and other governments around the world, united to address short-lived climate pollutants and to deliver action and benefits on: “climate, public health, energy efficiency, and food security.”
The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty aimed at eliminating ozone depleting substances, which are also potent greenhouse gases. The treaty’s net contribution to climate mitigation is about five to six times larger than the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period targets.
At the 2016 Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda, countries around the world agreed to a legally binding commitment to reduce HFC emissions that could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. This landmark agreement includes targets and timetables to replace HFCs with cleaner alternatives, provisions that restrict countries who ratified the protocol from trading with countries who have not, and a commitment by richer countries to finance poorer countries’ transition to the new standards.
New Source Performance Standards
Under the Obama Administration, EPA issued New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to address methane emissions from new, modified and reconstructed sources in the oil and gas industry. It set emission limits for methane, covered additional sources located at oil wells and processing plants than the previous 2012 NSPS rule, and required owners and operators to check and repair leaks.
The U.S. EPA has established several voluntary programs aimed at reducing high-GWP emissions. One is the SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems, where utilities partner with EPA and voluntarily commit to reducing sulfur hexafluoride emissions. Since its creation in 1999, these utilities have decreased the ratio of sulfur hexafluoride emissions relative to the total amount of sulfur hexafluoride in their equipment. In September 2014, the Obama administration announced a series of voluntary commitments from chemical firms, manufacturers and retailers, and the federal government to move rapidly away from HFC-134a and similar compounds and to shift to more environmentally friendly replacements.
U.S. EPA SNAP
The EPA also maintains a regulatory program called the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP). Under this program, the EPA may evaluate and control substitutes to ozone depleting substances to ensure that they are more environmentally benign than the substances they seek to replace. In August 2014, under the SNAP Program, EPA proposed to limit the use of certain HFCs in mobile air conditioning, certain types of foams, and aerosol applications. In August 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled EPA lacked the authority to require manufacturers of HFCs to replace HFCs based on climate change. As of January 2018, the Court of Appeals has denied rehearing the case. In May 2016, EPA finalized standards for new and existing sources in the oil and gas sector which would reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air emissions. These standards applied to hydraulically fractured oil wells and to new, reconstructed, and modified processes and equipment. Overall, the standards were anticipated to reduce methane emissions by 40–45 percent by 2025.
State Level Action
A 2016, California law established the most stringent state restrictions on short-lived climate pollutants. It sets goals to cut methane and hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40 percent and black carbon by 50 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.
In addition, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have adopted or in the process of adopting regulations to control methane from oil and gas operations.