California is taking action to mitigate the climate change impacts of “super pollutants” – compounds such as methane, black carbon and HFC gasses that have a short lived but significant warming effect on the planet. Among the objectives of the new law concerning short-lived climate pollutants is a 40 percent reduction in the state’s methane emissions from 2013 levels by 2030.
Sources of methane to be targeted include the State’s cows, and the idea of doing so has given the news media an opportunity to have a little fun with their headlines. The bill also mandates a reduction in landfill gas emissions, another significant source of the nation’s methane output, by cutting back on the amount of organic waste that ends up in the state’s landfills.
The bill does not dictate exactly how the ultimate goals will be achieved. Rather, consistent with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the legislature has tasked the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and other agencies with adopting appropriate regulations. The deadline for beginning to implement a comprehensive plan to meet the law’s objectives is January 1, 2018. Regulations that apply to livestock and dairy manure management cannot, however, become effective before 2024.
We will be watching to see what ARB does and whether any other states – or the federal government – pick up on any of its strategies. California’s experimentation with methane reduction techniques for livestock and livestock waste in particular could have ripple effects through the agricultural sector.