An additional 25 countries joined the US and EU-led vow to reduce methane pollution at the UN climate summit. Political support for a global accord on methane emissions is growing.
With the COP26 climate summit less than a month away, Japan, Canada, and Germany have brought the total number of parties supporting the goal to reduce emissions by nearly a third over the next decade to 34, including the European Union. Despite this, large emitters such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia have still not signed up.
According to the initiative, cutting global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 will lower global warming by at least 0.2C by 2050. Although the gas remains in the atmosphere for a shorter period of time than carbon dioxide, it is 20 times more robust as a contributor to global warming. The methane pledge is set to be formally introduced at COP26, with leaders such as US President Joe Biden mobilising support for a global deal ahead of the summit.
According to US climate envoy John Kerry, the issue is “squarely” on the agenda at a leader level. He noted that tackling methane was the “single fastest strategy” for achieving the 1.5C target.
The initiative, led by the United States and the European Union, was launched in September with nine parties on board, including the United Kingdom and Italy as joint leaders of COP26. The 34 countries that have expressed support account for around 60% of global GDP and one-third of all methane emissions. Kerry indicated a critical mass of “more than 100” countries was required, and he urged signatories to bear the burden by saying, “I’m going to get two more countries on board.”
Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, remarked that coordinating the campaign had been demanding “quite a journey, and in such a brief period of time. If we act together, we can really make a difference .”
Methane has moved to the top of the political agenda as a critical issue to address if the Paris Accord’s aim of keeping global warming below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels is to be met. Gas pipeline leaks, ruminants, rice production, and waste facilities such as landfill sites are all significant sources of methane. While reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas industry is relatively simple, reducing methane emissions in agriculture is more complicated.
According to a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CO2 is “the most important” contributor to human-induced warming, but methane is the second most important. IPCC announced that the pollution caused by the gas contributed to around 0.5C of warming in 2010-19 compared to 1850-1900 levels, while CO2 produced about 0.7C of warming.
Over $200 million has been promised to reduce methane emissions by more than 20 philanthropic organisations, including Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy and Chris Hohn’s Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Fred Krupp remarked, “Momentum is building for a methane moment in Glasglow.”