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More countries join EU and US-led methane pledge

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Two dozen countries joined, on Monday (11 October), an US and EU-led initiative to reduce global methane emissions, as momentum builds ahead of the UN climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this month, writes  ELENA SÁNCHEZ NICOLÁS.

Nigeria, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Philippines were among the new 24 signatories of the Global Methane Pledge, first announced by the European Union and the United States in September.

Under this global effort, countries have committed to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent over the next decade and to improving the monitoring of emissions and leaks across the globe.

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During a ministerial meeting with participating countries on Monday, US climate envoy John Kerry clarified that this was a global target and, therefore, "every country will do what it can in order to be able to reduce methane emissions".

Methane is the second-biggest contributor to global warming, following carbon dioxide. It is estimated to account for about half of the 1.0 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures that has already occurred since the pre-industrial era.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that 70 percent of methane emissions from gas and oil operations can be easily prevented.

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"The solutions are proven and even profitable in many cases," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the time

Delivering on this global pledge could buy the planet some time, since it is estimated to reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees by 2050.

However, according to Inger Andersen from the UN environment programme, countries should not consider it as "a get-out-of-jail-free card" to tackle the climate crisis.

"It is important that we swiftly decarbonise our energy systems, that action on methane should be seen as complementary in the short term to the global efforts on CO2" in order to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement targets, Andersen said.

This partnership now covers nine of the world's top 20 methane emitters, representing about 30 percent of global methane emissions and 60 percent of the global economy.

But both the EU and the US hope more countries will support this initiative, when it is formally launched in Glasgow.

"The pledge's supporters are putting methane squarely on the COP26 agenda, where it belongs, and every country in the world should follow their lead and join the pledge immediately," said Sarah Smith from Boston-based NGO Clean Air Task Force.

Meanwhile, a group of 20 philanthropists has announced €170m to implement the global pledge.

EU imports methane emissions

Over the last three decades, the European Union has reduced methane emissions from landfill almost by half and fossil fuels by almost 65 percent, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans told his counterparts.

"But the large part of methane emissions associated with the European economy are not happening within our borders. Instead, they take place during the productions and transportation of fossil fuels that we import into the EU," he added.

The EU produces some five percent of global methane emissions internally, but it is the world's largest importer of gas and oil.

As a result, the European Commission is expected to put forward a legislative proposal by the end of the year to reduce methane emissions across the whole energy supply chain in the EU and in primary export countries - including binding rules on monitoring, reporting, leak detection and repair in the energy sector.

Within the EU, more than half of man-made methane emissions comes from agriculture (53 percent), followed by waste (26%) and energy (19%).

In the agriculture sector, the EU will promote research on innovative methane reducing technologies and nature-based solutions.

CO2 emissions

Europe’s policymakers lag behind truckmakers on CO2 emissions

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EU policymakers are lagging behind truckmakers when it comes to CO2 emissions, a new study shows.

Improvements in aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, as well as flexibilities in the regulations, mean trucks can already achieve the EU’s 2025 CO2 reduction target while producing just a few zero-emission vehicles. T&E says the EU needs to raise targets in order to increase the production of zero-emissions trucks throughout the decade to ensure the industry decarbonises on time.

Lucien Mathieu, acting freight director at T&E, said: “Truckmakers are going green quicker than policymakers, which is absurd. However, this is not the case of the free-market doing its job, but rather policymakers failing to do theirs. Truckmakers are clearly able to decarbonise quicker. It’s time to make them.”

Swedish truckmaker Scania leads the way in terms of CO2 emissions from new trucks with emissions 5.3% lower than the average for the most common type of long-haul truck. Scania’s better emissions performance is primarily down to aerodynamics, which it has achieved without producing any zero-emission trucks. Laggards Renault and IVECO, on the other hand, have the highest emissions: 2.6% and 2.4% above the long-haul average respectively. 

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If all of Europe’s trucks performed as well as the most efficient models on the market, it would reduce average truck CO2 emissions by 6% today, the study shows. But efficiency gains alone will not get Europe’s trucking sector to net-zero, T&E warns.

Lucien Mathieu added: “Best-in-class trucks can deliver emissions reduction today, but efficiency only gets you so far. Europe needs to drastically increase the number of zero-emissions trucks on its roads in the coming years to have any chance of decarbonising the sector on time. But current truck CO2 targets fail to encourage truckmakers to produce them. We need to crank up the targets throughout the decade.”

Most truckmakers have made voluntary commitments for electric sales which go beyond what the EU requires. According to their public announcements, these voluntary commitments would take the market to around 7% zero-emission vehicles in 2025 and 43% in 2030 - higher than the 2% needed in 2025 to meet existing voluntary targets. These voluntary announcements show that the EU can set a realistic - but more ambitious - target of at least 30% zero-emission trucks by 2028, says T&E.

Average CO2 emissions for new long-haul trucks were higher in larger western European countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, while smaller countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Portugal and Slovakia performed significantly better. Poland's long-haul truck emissions, for example, are 3.5% below the EU average while Germany’s are 2.2% above. 

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EU Sustainable Investment Summit: President von der Leyen calls on global partners to set global standards and support sustainable investment

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This morning (7 October), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) delivered the opening address at the EU Sustainable Investment Summit, the first annual event on sustainable finance hosted by the European Commission. In her speech, the President spoke about the current rise in energy prices: “In these very weeks, we all see how crucial it is to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal. So in the long term, the European Green Deal and renewables are the solution to the rising electricity prices. Every euro spent on renewable energies does help our planet. And it equally helps the consumers. But it is also an investment in the resilience of our economies. So, we have to speed up our work on the European Green Deal to become more energy independent.”

President von der Leyen identified two key challenges we need to address to boost global sustainable investment: First, how to attract more capital towards sustainable investment. Second, how to bring more countries on board, and raise the global ambition. The speech was also an occasion for her to recall Europe's commitment and leadership: “Europe can lead by the power of its example. Europe has become the home of sustainable investment. The European green bond market today is worth around €1 trillion. We have built the largest carbon market in the world, with our Emissions Trading System. And later this month, we will strengthen our leadership, when we will start issuing green bonds worth €250 billion, as part of NextGenerationEU. This is a leadership we are proud of, and we will keep consolidating.” Finally, looking ahead to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, the President said: “The COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Ambitions need to be backed by concrete plans. And Europe will continue to engage, with the highest level of ambition.”

The full speech is available online, and you can watch it here.

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‘Green mining’ is a myth: EU must slash resource consumption by two-thirds – new study

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New analysis suggests the EU must ditch plans under its European Green Deal to increase mining and instead set hard limits to the natural resources it extracts in order to prevent human and ecological disaster. Read the full report here.

European Green Deal plans will fail to stop runaway mining, creating further permanent damage to the environment and wreaking havoc on human rights. The EU must reduce extraction of natural resources by 65%, according to a new study released today by Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Environmental Bureau. [1]

The report shows that the EU is already extracting and consuming a dangerous proportion of the world’s limited resources, with serious consequences:

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  • The EU material footprint [2] is currently 14.5 tonnes per capita, about double what is considered a sustainable and just limit, and well over the global average. 
  • The EU alone already uses between 70% and 97% of the global environmentally ‘safe operating space’ related to resource extraction impacts. Any resource extraction beyond this ‘safe’ threshold threatens the stable functioning of the earth’s biophysical systems.
  • More environmental defenders are killed for opposing mining than opposing any other industry. 50 of the 212 environmental defenders killed worldwide in 2019 were campaigning to stop mining projects.

Yet European Green Deal plans are continuing on the path of ‘consumption as usual’, meaning enormous increases in mining for certain metals and minerals. For example batteries, primarily for electric vehicles, are predicted to drive up EU demand for lithium by almost 6000% by 2050. 

Supplying such demand will inevitably lead to scarcity, conflicts and destructive mining, closely resembling social and environmental harms from digging up fossil fuels. The answer here is not simply to replace cars running on fossil fuels with electric cars – it is to also reduce private car use overall. [3]

These issues demonstrate that the green transition must be used as an opportunity to tackle the root causes of the broader climate and environmental crises - an economic system which drives overconsumption and social inequities in all sectors. As an urgent first step, the EU must set a material footprint reduction target of 65%. 

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Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The EU has a history of passing weak laws which fail again and again to reduce the amount of natural resources we consume, putting the remaining parts of the natural world and many communities under immense stress. The reason is simple: the laws are all predicated on economic growth, which is not compatible with a sustainable future.

“The EU needs to wake up and set a headline target to cut material use by two-thirds so that the European Green Deal doesn’t become another footnote in the history of the destruction of the planet.”

Diego Marin, associate policy officer for Environmental Justice at the European Environmental Bureau said: “Recognizing that we cannot mine our way out of the climate crisis means that we need to stop the growth frenzy. It is as if current policies were driving a bus toward a cliff edge and the passengers were arguing about whether the bus should run on electricity or fossil fuels, when the more urgent question we should be asking is how we can stop the bus from plummeting down the cliff in the first place.

“End of pipe solutions alone no longer cut it, we need to tackle the many issues with the linear take-make-use-lose economy at the very source.”

[1] The report analyses various policies under the European Green Deal including the Circular Economy Action Plan, Raw Materials Strategy, trade policies and human rights legislation. It focuses on mining of metals and metallic minerals

[2] Total consumption of fossil fuels, biomass, metals and non-metallic minerals, including embodied in imports.

[3] The mining industry and governments must also stop attempts to greenwash mining, using the fact that certain metals and minerals are key for green technologies to greenwash the metal mining industry in general and promote the nonsensical concept of ‘green mining’. Metals like copper, iron and aluminum are overwhelmingly used in construction and other industries, such as the destructive military sector. 

Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups. We are the European arm of Friends of the Earth International. We represent the network at the heart of the European Union and campaign for sustainable solutions to benefit the planet, people and our future. Read more on the website and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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