United States and the EU jointly pledged on Friday to reduce global methane emissions by nearly a third over the next decade, which climate experts have hailed as one of the most important steps to date towards the achievement of the goal Paris climate agreement.
The pledge came as UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a “high risk of failure” in vital UN climate talks, Flic26, scheduled for Glasgow in November.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, about 80 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and emissions have increased in recent years. Major sources are natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing, meat production and other forms of agriculture.
The US-EU pact sets a target of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30%, based on 2020 levels, by 2030. If adopted worldwide , this would reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by the 2040s, compared to likely increases in temperature by then. The world is now about 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times.
Boris Johnson has said the UK will be one of the first to join the US-EU methane pledge, when it opens up to more Cop26 signatories. He told a meeting of world leaders from major economies on Friday: “Over the past 30 years, the UK has reduced its methane emissions by around 60%. And there are good commercial uses for methane, you can use it to make fabric, you can use it to make antifreeze. So the world could reduce its production of this powerful greenhouse gas tomorrow if we wanted to. “
The announcement was an important victory before Cop26. Momentum on the Cop26 talks has weakened in recent days, as two reports were released that showed key talks targets were far from on track.
The un published a report on Friday which found that current national governments’ emissions commitments would lead to a 16% increase in emissions in 2030 from 2010 levels, while scientists warn that emissions must fall by 45% during this period to stay within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The OECD also released a report on Friday showing that climate finance – finance from private and public sources that flows from the rich world to developing countries, to help them reduce emissions and cope with the impacts of extreme weather events – was down by about 20 billion dollars against the long-standing goal of $ 100 billion per year.
Guterres said, “The world is on a catastrophic path towards heating 2.7 degrees Celsius. 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] … It is a crucial question of trust.
He added that the failure to make firmer emissions commitments “broke the promise made six years ago to continue. the 1.5C objective of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured by the massive loss of human lives and livelihoods. “
Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host an emergency summit of more than 30 world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday, aimed at breaking the deadlock on climate finance and throwing the bases of a new world climate pressure at the Cop26. The UK’s goal as host of Cop26 is to show that the world can ‘keep alive’ the hope of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the lower of the two limits. Paris Agreement of 2015.
Reduce methane emissions would make a substantial contribution to achieving that goal, said Paul Bledsoe, of the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC and former climate adviser to the Clinton White House. “The EU and Joe Biden deserve real credit – this is the first concrete step on the possible path to success at Cop26.”
According to a UN report in May, methane reduction is the fastest and most efficient way to reduce the rate of global temperature rise and meet the 1.5 degree Celsius 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 has been a record rise in methane emissions last year, according to the UN, mostly from the fossil fuel industry, livestock and decaying waste. But the UN also found that methane emissions could be almost halved by 2030 using existing technology and at a reasonable cost. A significant portion of the actions would actually make money, such as catching 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 2030 and the need to make it the decade of action. To do this, they wisely put methane mitigation in the spotlight and elevated it to the level of heads of state. “
He said: “Reducing methane is the most important and fastest way to slow warming over the next two decades, and it gives us the best chance of keeping the 1.5 degree Celsius goal in sight. . Cutting off methane is our best and probably our last hope for keeping the planet safe. The key is to use the global methane commitment as a bridgehead for an all-out assault to reduce this super climate pollutant as quickly as possible. “