WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a group of 15 U.S. Senators in writing to Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his trip this coming weekend to New Delhi, urging him to work with India to address short-lived climate pollutants, the so-called “super pollutants” that do vastly more damage to the climate than carbon dioxide.
In their letter, the senators recommend concrete steps for India to take towards joining international efforts to combat methane, soot, and refrigerant pollution. These steps have the potential to save millions of lives, improve the Indian economy, and preserve drinking water supplies for billions of South Asians:
“As you well know, a strengthened international commitment to curtail emissions of black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could slow anthropogenic warming by as much as .6 degrees Celsius by 2050, avoid several million premature deaths each year, and save 30 million tons of crops annually,”the senators wrote. “India, as one of the world’s largest developing economies, has a pivotal role to play in combatting these fast-acting super pollutants. The recent announcement by President Obama and President Xi Jinping that China is now willing to phase down HFC production under the auspices of the Montreal Protocol can provide needed momentum to our negotiations with India on this subject. As you meet with Indian heads of state, we would urge you to raise these vitally important topics and find common ground to address them.”
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable John F. Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry,
As you travel to New Delhi this weekend for the fourth U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, we write to encourage your continued engagement with the Indian government on a subject which you have long championed: the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).
As you well know, a strengthened international commitment to curtail emissions of black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could slow anthropogenic warming by as much as .6 degrees Celsius by 2050, avoid several million premature deaths each year, and save 30 million tons of crops annually. India, as one of the world’s largest developing economies, has a pivotal role to play in combatting these fast-acting super pollutants.
The recent announcement by President Obama and President Xi Jinping that China is now willing to phase down HFC production under the auspices of the Montreal Protocol can provide needed momentum to our negotiations with India on this subject. The announcement with China is an enormous credit to your leadership, and hopefully a template which can be employed with Indian leaders as well.
As you meet with Indian heads of state, we would urge you to raise these vitally important topics and find common ground to address them:
HFCs. HFCs could grow to nearly 20 percent of the level of CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unchecked. While affordable, climate-friendly HFC alternatives exist – many of which have been vetted by the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program – global adoption nonetheless remain sluggish and haphazard, and HFC recapture and reuse programs are limited. No single action on India’s part would speak louder than to follow China’s example in reconsidering a phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
The Indian Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Manufacturers’ Association (RAMA) forecasts that 300 million air conditioning units will be in service by 2030 – an increase of more than 50 times the current number. Only 25 percent of Indian air conditioners are imported, meaning that ensuring a transition to low-GWP refrigerants among Indian manufacturers will be essential in reducing domestic HFC emissions.
Black Carbon. Black carbon generated in Asia has an amplified warming impact on the Tibetan Plateau, whose glaciers provide drinking water for a billion people in India and neighboring nations. Recent surveys have indicated that black carbon is responsible for at least 30 percent of Tibetan glacial melt.
Two billion people globally use crude cookstoves to burn locally-available biomass for both heating and cooking needs, including some three-fourths of India’s population. The resultant health impacts are profound, with an estimated 570,000 deaths a year in India attributable to household solid fuel combustion. Working with the United Nations and non-profit organizations, the Indian government has already taken laudable steps to expand access to inexpensive clean-burning cookstoves and kerosene lamp replacements. However, more needs to be done. We hope you will continue Secretary Clinton’s pioneering work in this area, and increase USAID commitments to micro-lending programs to finance cookstove purchases. Additionally, the Indian government needs to cooperate more fully with international nonprofit organizations currently on the ground in India providing access to stove replacements.
If we’re successful, the benefits for India are substantial: ensuring that ninety percent of Indian households burn biomass with clean-burning cook stoves by 2020 would reduce premature deaths by 17 percent annually, essentially saving 55.5 million years of human life.
Further, 66 percent of India’s transportation fuel mix is diesel, and is thus responsible for 21 percent of the nation’s black carbon. We have the technologies to slash these emissions dramatically: combining ultra-low sulfur fuel and particulate soot filters eliminates more than 90-95 percent of diesel soot and black carbon. Bolstering the Indian Ministry of Transport’s existing inspection efforts and encouraging further collaboration with the U.N.’s
Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles would help India more effectively adopt the necessary emissions reduction technologies.
Finally, India produces 10 percent of the globe’s clay-fired bricks (150-200 billion bricks annually), and brick kilns represent 9 percent of India’s black carbon emissions. However, large segments of the mostly-rural, small-scale Indian kiln industry are unaware of the financial benefits associated with improved firing efficiency at their facilities. Newer model kilns, which have a small but growing presence in India, can reduce black carbon emissions from 70 up to 95 percent and generate substantial energy savings for kiln owners. However, we need an effective and coordinated international program to help disseminate those new technologies within India, and aid in basic field testing.
Landfill Methane. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of global methane emissions, and the problem is only growing worse: the World Bank projects that municipal solid waste streams will nearly double worldwide by 2025. While many nations current employ Landfill Gas to Energy (LFGE) to capture and productively harness landfill emissions, India has hardly any active LFGE projects in operation. We hope that India can commit to a robust roadmap for deployment of landfill gas capture projects, while ideally reusing those gases to help ease the severity of India’s frequent electrical blackouts.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) is currently assembling a global roster of cities to host pilot projects to holistically address all landfill emissions within their borders. These pilot projects will include capping and closing open dumps, capturing and utilizing landfill gas, and ensuring proper waste handling and organics management. Pilot cities will further serve as regional ambassadors, helping to spread and share best practices and technical information amongst other urban centers. If possible, we would like India to volunteer one of its cities for participation in this important international effort.
CCAC. In February, representatives from the Indian government attended a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand of Asia-Pacific nations convened by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). In marshaling the resources and expertise of its now 32-member states (including the EU), the CCAC remains the chief forum for the coordination of cooperative international efforts to combat SLCPs. Without India’s full participation, the coalition simply cannot achieve its reduction targets. We hope that you will encourage India to join this important voluntary international effort.
Thank you again for your attention to these important issues, and for your continued leadership on international climate matters. We stand ready to assist in whatever manner we are capable.
Christopher S. Murphy Robert Menendez
United States Senator United States Senator