The United States and the EU made a joint commitment on Friday to cut global methane emissions by nearly a third over the next decade, in what climate experts called one of the most important steps so far to comply with the climate deal. from Paris.
The promise came as UN Secretary General António Guterres warned of a “high risk of failure” in the vital UN climate talks, called Cop26, scheduled for Glasgow this November.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, roughly 80 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and emissions have increased in recent years. Natural gas production and fracking, meat production and other forms of agriculture are among the main sources.
The pact between the US and the EU sets a goal of reducing at least 30% of global methane emissions, based on 2020 levels, by 2030. If adopted worldwide, this would reduce global warming by 0.2 ° C by the 2040s, compared with the temperature likely to rise by then. The world is now around 1.2 ° C warmer now than it was in pre-industrial times.
Boris Johnson said the UK would be one of the first to join the US-EU promise of methane, when it opens for more signatories at Cop26. He told a meeting of world leaders from major economies on Friday: “Over the past 30 years, the UK has cut methane emissions by something like 60%. And there are good commercial uses for methane, you can use it to make fabrics, you can use it to make antifreeze. So the world could cut its production of this powerful greenhouse gas tomorrow if we wanted to. ”
The announcement was a major victory before Cop26. The momentum of the Cop26 talks has waned in recent days as two reports were released showing that the key goals of the talks were a long way off target.
The UN released a report on Friday that found that current promises on emissions from national governments would result in a 16% increase in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels, while scientists warn that emissions must fall. 45% in that period to stay within 1.5 C. The OECD also released a report on Friday showing that climate finance, financing from public and private sources that flows from the rich world to developing countries, to help them reducing emissions and coping with the impacts of extreme weather, was falling about $ 20 billion short of a long-standing goal of $ 100 billion a year.
Guterres said: “The world is on a catastrophic path towards 2.7C of heating. There is a high risk of Cop26 failure. It is clear that everyone must assume their responsibilities. We need more ambition in terms of financing, adaptation and [emissions cuts] … This is a crucial question of trust. “
He added that the failure to present firmer promises on emissions was “breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured in massive loss of life and livelihoods. “
Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host an emergency summit of more than 30 world leaders Monday at the UN General Assembly in New York aimed at breaking the deadlock on climate finance and laying the foundations for a new globalization. climatic thrust at Cop26. The UK’s goal as host of Cop26 is to show that the world can “keep alive” hopes of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C, the lower of the two limits in the 2015 Paris agreement.
Reducing methane emissions would go a long way toward achieving that goal, said Paul Bledsoe, a Washington DC analyst and former Clinton White House climate adviser. “The EU and Joe Biden deserve real recognition – this is the first concrete step on the possible path to success at Cop26.”
According to a UN report in May, cutting methane is the fastest and most effective way to reduce the rate of global temperature rise and stay within the 1.5 ° C target. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world authority on climate science, also called in August for “strong, rapid and sustained reductions in methane.”
There was a record rise in methane emissions last year, according to the UN, mainly from the fossil fuel industry, livestock and decaying waste. But the UN also found that methane emissions could be cut almost in half by 2030 using existing technology and at a reasonable cost. A significant proportion of the actions would actually generate profits, such as capturing methane gas leaks at fossil fuel sites.
Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said: “President Biden and his climate envoy John Kerry have changed climate policy in recent months by shifting the focus from 2050 to 2030 and the need to make this the decade of action. To do this, they have wisely put methane mitigation in the spotlight and elevated it to the level of heads of state. “
He said: “Cutting methane is the biggest and fastest way to reduce warming in the next two decades, and it gives us the best chance of keeping the 1.5 ° C target in sight. Cutting methane is our best and probably last hope to keep the planet safe. The key is to use the global promise of methane as a beachhead for an all-out assault to reduce this climate super pollutant as quickly as possible. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism