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Glasgow Climate Conference Underscores Importance of Bioenergy to Reduce Most Damaging Climate Pollutants

The United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow highlighted the urgency of reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants like methane and black carbon as the most effective steps to reduce global warming. As the head of the UN Environment Program stated, “Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years . . . we need to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade.

In California, organic waste causes 87 percent of all methane emissions, which are 74 times more damaging to the climate than the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel burning. Open burning of forest and agricultural waste, wildfires, and diesel are the largest sources of black carbon emissions, which are 3,200 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide on a 20-year time horizon.

On the positive side, reducing methane and black carbon benefit the climate right away. Reducing fossil fuels – while critically important in the long term – won’t begin to benefit the climate until 2050 or later. In other words, we have to do much more to reduce methane and black carbon to begin cooling the planet down right away. As Dr. V. Ramanathan, a climate scientist from UC San Diego says, reducing methane, black carbon, and other Short-Lived Climate Pollutants is “the last lever we have left to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

Bioenergy cuts methane emissions from landfill waste, wastewater treatment facilities, dairies and other livestock waste. It can also cut black carbon emissions from burning of agricultural and forest waste and from diesel. According to the California Air Resources Board, bioenergy cuts black carbon and methane emissions 98 percent compared to open burning.

For more information, see https://bendingthecurve.ucsd.edu/

Bioenergy Critical to Climate

Bioenergy is critical to slow global warming right away and to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.  That’s because bioenergy can reduce the most damaging climate pollutants known as Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs).  Climate scientists agree that we have less than a decade left to avert catastrophic – and largely irreversible – climate change.  The most effective tool we have – the last lever we have left – is to reduce SLCP emissions.  And bioenergy can do that more effectively than other tools because it cuts methane and black carbon emissions – two of the most damaging SLCPs – from organic waste, including landfills and dairies, agricultural waste, and forest waste or other vegetation removed to reduce wildfire risks.  Bioenergy can also provide carbon negative emissions needed to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.  And, according to the California Air Resources Board, it provides the most cost-effective of all carbon emissions.

Read more about Bioenergy and Climate

Air Board Adopts Plan to Phase Out Open Burning of Agricultural Waste in San Joaquin Valley

In late February, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan to phase out the open burning of agricultural waste in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region.  Open burning, which has increased nearly 500% in the past several years, is a major source of air and climate pollution in the Valley.  In fact, open burning of agricultural and forest waste is one of the largest sources of black carbon emissions – a powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutant that is 3200 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide and is also very harmful to public health, crops, forests, and more.

The Air Board’s plan calls specifically for:

  • A Clean Biomass/Bioenergy Collaborative across state agencies
  • Increased funding for bioenergy and other alternatives to open burning
  • Increased production of liquid and gaseous fuels from agricultural waste

See:  CARB Approved Plan to Phase Out Ag Burning (Feb2021)