The United States and the European Union have announced a global pledge to slash methane emissions under the Paris Agreement. The announcement came during COP26, which is being held in Katowice, Poland.
This post discusses how this initiative will help reduce climate change.
Methane is the third most common greenhouse gas, after water vapor and carbon dioxide. However, methane has 86 times more heat-trapping potential than CO2 over a 20-year period. President Donald Trump’s administration acknowledged in 2014 that methane leaked during natural gas extraction could increase overall US greenhouse gas emissions by 15%.
The US and the international community have long recognized methane’s impact on climate change. For this reason, both entities signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol is an extension of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was ratified by nearly 200 countries in 1992 to prevent dangerous human interference with Earth’s climate system.
The US is the only country that has rejected the Paris Agreement, although it may seek to rejoin under President Trump. Syria also remains a non-party to the pact. The European Union and Canada ratified it nearly two years ago.
About 30 nations agreed in 2016 to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. HFCs are 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases. The US also ratified the Kigali Amendment to phase out these super pollutants by 100% in developed countries by 2036.
The Obama administration published a methane strategy last year that included strategies to reduce emissions from landfills, livestock, and oil and gas systems. The new methane initiative builds upon that strategy.
The US-EU’s Methane Strategy to Cut Emissions by up to 45%
At the climate talks in Poland this week, the US and the European Union announced a global methane challenge to reduce emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas. They said they would reduce methane emissions by up to 45% from 2012 levels over the next 10 years. This means cutting nearly 150,000 tons per year through 2025.
The countries are also pledging to provide $20 million in new funding for this initiative under the UNFCCC. They will use these funds to develop technology that reduces methane leakage in landfills, livestock farming, and oil and gas production.
The European Commission will provide another $8 million in new funding to develop better methane detection technology for cities. The initiative also includes a partnership with the Green Climate Fund that aims to reduce emissions by developing countries.
These two entities represent 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making their pledge an important step in preventing dangerous climate change.
We are today sending a strong signal to the world that we are committed to accelerating climate action and helping countries implement their commitments under the Paris Agreement, which will now be even more crucial with President Trump’s announced withdrawal, said Miguel Arias Cañete , the EU’s Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action.
The European Union and the US showcase their support for global efforts to combat climate change. They also demonstrate how two major economies show up at the UNFCCC and make an impact.
Although this new initiative provides important momentum, it is expected to fall short of what is needed to do meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. The agreement calls for the global community to limit the rise of average global temperatures below two degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels.
Some scientists, however, warn that even these ambitious goals aren’t enough as they don’t account for the effects of methane and other greenhouse gases that warm our planet. In fact, a recent study shows that warming is now up to 1.