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World Leaders sign Global Methane Pledge supporting decarbonisation at COP26

The European Union and United States announced a Global Methane Pledge initiative to reduce the world’s methane emissions on the second day of COP26.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden urged countries at the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate to join the Pledge, welcoming those who had already signaled their support.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accounts for around 50% of the one degree Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.

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Rapidly reducing methane emissions will help action on dealing with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near future and stick to the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Countries who join the Global Methane Pledge will commit to a collective goal of reducing global emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels, by 2030. They also pledge to use best available inventory methodologies to quantify their methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources.

Delivering on the pledge is envisaged to reduce warming by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Biggest potential for delivering on global methane pledge is targeting energy sector

Countries around the world have varying methane emission profiles and thus reduction potential. However, all can contribute in some way towards achieving the collective global goal through domestic methane reduction and international cooperation.

The major sources of methane emissions include the oil and gas sectors, coal, agriculture and landfills. Each sector has a different starting point and varying potential for short-term abatement. The greatest potential for targeted mitigation by 2030 lies in the energy sector.

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Dealing with methane emissions has the additional benefit of improving public health and agricultural productivity. According to the Global Methane Assessment by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), achieving the proposed 2030 goal could prevent more than 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits and more than 20 million tons of crop losses by 2030. That is, if ground-level ozone pollution is reduced because of methane emission reduction.

So far the European Union and 8 countries have indicated their support for the Global Methane Pledge. These countries include 6 of the top 15 global methane emitters. Together they account for more than 20% of global methane emissions, and almost half of the world’s economy.

The 8 countries are:

  • Argentina
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

European Union has made a start in reducing methane emissions

The European Union has been working on reducing its methane emissions for close on 30 years. The European Commission adopted a strategy in 1996 to help reduce methane emission from landfills by almost 50%. Under the European Green Deal, the EU adopted a strategy in October 2020 to reduce methane emission in key sectors covering energy, agriculture and waste.

Reducing methane emissions in this decade is an important part of the EU’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This year, the European Commission will propose legislation to measure, report and verify methan emissions, put limits of venting and flaring and impose requirements to detect leaks and repair them.

The European Commission is also working on ways to accelerate the up take of mitigation technologies through the deployment of ‘carbon farming’ in EU member states through their Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plans, and to promote biomethane production from agricultural waste and residue.

The European Commission also supports UNEP’s establishment of an independent International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) to address the global data gap and transparency in this area.

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United States looking at various options

The US is pursuing methane reductions on multiple fronts. Their Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promulgating new regulations to curtail methane emissions from the oil and gas industries. At the same time the EPA is taking steps to implement stronger pollution standards for landfills. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration is working on steps to reduce methane leaks from pipelines and related facilities.

The US Department of Agriculture for its part is working to expand the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices which reduce methane emissions. They target key agriculture sources by incentivizing the deployment of improved manure management systems, anaerobic digestors, new livestock feeds, composting and related practices.

The US Congress is also considering supplemental funding to support many of these efforts, including a proposal for a initiative to plug and remediate orphaned and abandoned oil, gas and coal wells and mines.

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Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.