Countries pledge to cut down methane emission by 30pc

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 00:00 | By
US President Joe Biden. Photo/Courtesy

Dozens of countries on Tuesday joined a United States and European Union pledge to cut emissions of methane -- the most potent greenhouse gas -- by 30 percent this decade, in the most significant climate commitment so far at COP26.

The initiative, which experts say could have a powerful short-term impact on global heating, followed an announcement earlier Tuesday in which more than 100 nations agreed to end deforestation by 2030.

“One of the most important things we can do between now and 2030, to keep 1.5C in reach, is reduce our methane emissions as soon as possible,” said US President Joe Biden, referring to the central goal of the 2015 Paris agreement. 

He called the pledge, which has so far been signed by more than 80 nations, a “game-changing commitment” that covered countries responsible for around half of global methane emissions.

Immediate impact

European Commission head Ursula Von der Leyen said that the methane cut would “immediately slow down climate change”.

“We cannot wait until 2050. We have to cut emissions fast and methane is one of the gases we can cut the fastest,” she said.

Heads of state and government are gathered in Glasgow for a two-day high-level summit that host Britain is hoping will kick start ambitious climate action during the two-week COP26. 

Organisers say the ensuing shuttle diplomacy and painstaking negotiation will be crucial for the continued viability of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and its goal to limit temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. 

While the summit’s first day passed with much rhetoric but only lukewarm climate pledges, Tuesday’s twin announcements were broadly welcomed by campaigners.

Stronger than CO2

Decades of climate pledges have been rooted in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Yet methane (CH4) is more than 80 times more potent than CO2, and its sources, such as open pit coal mines and livestock, have received relatively little attention until now.

The United Nations last month said that global methane emissions could be slashed by 20 percent at little or no cost using existing practices or technologies.

A report from earlier this year showed “available targeted methane measures” could see CH4 levels reduced by 45 per cent by 2030. 

This would shave 0.3C off projected warming, save a quarter of a million air pollution deaths and increase global crop yields by 26 million tonnes, the UN’s Environment Programme said.

“Cutting  methane emissions is essential to keep global warming from breaching 1.5C,” said Helen Mountford, from the World Resources Institute.

“Strong  and rapid action to cut  methane emissions offers a range of benefits, from limiting near-term warming and curbing air pollution to improved food security and better public health.”

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