The U.S. and the European Union have agreed on a pledge to cut emissions of planet-warming methane gas by roughly a third by the end of this decade compared to 2020, Reuters reported, citing documentation the news agency saw ahead of a formal announcement expected later this week.
Methane rules could have a significant impact on the energy, agriculture and waste industries, which are responsible for the bulk of such emissions.
The agreement, the first ever to specifically target methane, is seen as a major preliminary step ahead of the highly anticipated November global climate-change conference in Glasgow. The U.S. and the EU will push other major economies to join their pledge, Reuters said.
Methane, a greenhouse gas, is some 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) but remains in the atmosphere for a shorter period, about a decade.
Still, action to curb methane emissions can rapidly reduce global warming, scientists say. It is primarily emitted from oil
infrastructure via connection leaks, and from coal mines, landfills and agriculture including from manure and livestock.
Methane reductions are increasingly pushed, including in this report, as a key facet of government plans to limit global warming to 1.5C degrees, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.
“The science tells us we have vanishingly little time left to slow global warming before we start passing serious climate tipping points. The fastest way to pump the brakes is to reduce methane pollution, which could avoid nearly 0.3 degrees C of warming by the 2040s,” said Sarah Smith, program director of super pollutants at the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). CATF confirmed their expectations that the proposal, as first reported by Reuters, will be released this week.
“The forthcoming Global Methane Pledge reflects what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, and the United Nations Environment Programme say we must do to directly reduce methane and set ourselves on a pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” Smith said.
Already, major climate groups had assessed the impact of methane. To have a chance to hit the goals of maintaining a temperature increase to 1.5°C, a cut in methane emissions by 40%-45% below a 2030 business-as-usual baseline is needed, various U.N. climate groups and others have said. The proposed U.S.-EU pledge is expected to set a target of at least 30% below 2020. When the two differing baselines are aligned, the pledge would achieve at least a 35% reduction below a business-as-usual baseline.
Additional reductions will be achieved not by methane policies but by energy, climate, air quality and other policy measures that would proceed independently of the global methane pledge, but would result in co-benefit methane reductions., the CATF explained.
U.S. Republicans have previously expressed worry that methane restrictions are part of Democrats’ efforts to limit the natural gas industry which the industry has argued is a valuable inclusion in a diverse energy portfolio that ultimately limits climate change.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said earlier this year that Democrats appear intent on demonizing natural gas even though increased natural gas production — spurred by the fracking boom — “actually helped lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” over the past decade.
Democrats at the time were reversing Trump-era rollbacks that lightened methane leak rules.
CATF said countries including Nigeria, Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the U.S. are taking concrete steps on methane but the more formalized agreement will ideally apply the pressure to bring more countries on board and with clearer deadlines.