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The US and the EU plan on Friday to reduce methane pollution by 30 percent in the coming decade and call on other major greenhouse gas emitters to join the effort.
The pact is intended to put methane on the agenda before the UN climate meeting in Glasgow in November, people said the plan had been informed and would take effect in October. The UK would also be included, they said.
The targets do not set the emission limits for individual sectors, the people said, and some climate analysts have disappointed who would otherwise have welcomed the news of the forthcoming agreement. However, they praise the efforts to limit a greenhouse gas with a warming potential of more than 80 times carbon dioxide over 20 years.
“The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] was crystal clear: we need to reduce methane emissions to have a threat of a dream of reaching one and a half degrees, ‘said Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of RMI, a non-profit organization in clean energy in the US to the UN climate study on efforts to keep global warming at 1,550 within 1.5C.
“It makes perfect sense for countries to focus on methane as the most urgent lever,” he said. The IPCC has estimated that cuts in methane and other transient pollutants could reduce global warming by 2040 and 0.8C by 2100.
The agreement comes because the EU and the US are also preparing their own separate policies to reduce methane pollution. Emissions are difficult to measure, but the International Energy Agency said about 60 percent of the 570 million tonnes released last year were related to human activities such as agriculture, energy production and transport and waste.
The Biden White House has made the reduction of methane emissions a priority and has already introduced Obama-era rules to control methane pollution in the energy sector that has been reversed by the Trump administration. The US State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
But some analysts have said the effect of the new deal on global emissions will be limited.
A UN report on methane in May called for an urgent 45 percent reduction in methane emissions over the next decade.
Maria Pastukhova, senior policy adviser at E3G, a European climate change think tank, said the more modest 30 per cent target was ‘problematic’. To reduce global emissions, other major methane pollutants would be needed to report.
‘Even if the US, the UK and the EU reach the target, it basically means nothing to the global [emissions] without China, Russia and India, ”Pastukhova said.
Although reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector would be relatively easy using known techniques, emissions from agriculture, the largest source of human-related methane pollution, would be more difficult.
According to some analysts, large emitters, such as Brazil, may be reluctant to take part in a pledge that requires a full-line cut, while poor emissions data in countries such as Russia and Nigeria could also undermine a global deal.
But countries with large energy sectors already committed to methane reductions, such as the US, can gain a geopolitical advantage by reducing pollution, says Paul Bledsoe, adviser to the Progressive Policy Institute, an American think tank.
“The US sees a strategic opportunity to move lower methane-intensive gas to Russian gas,” Bledsoe said.