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Joint EU-US press release on the Global Methane Pledge

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The European Union and the United States have announced the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce global methane emissions to be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November in Glasgow. President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged countries at the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) to join the Pledge and welcomed those that have already signaled their support.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era. Rapidly reducing methane emissions is complementary to action on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. 

Countries joining the Global Methane Pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 and moving towards using best available inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources. Delivering on the Pledge would reduce warming by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Countries have widely varying methane emissions profiles and reduction potential, but all can contribute to achieving the collective global goal through additional domestic methane reduction and international cooperative actions. Major sources of methane emissions include oil and gas, coal, agriculture, and landfills. These sectors have different starting points and varying potential for short-term methane abatement with the greatest potential for targeted mitigation by 2030 in the energy sector. 

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Methane abatement delivers additional important benefits, including improved public health and agricultural productivity.  According to the Global Methane Assessment from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), achieving the 2030 goal can prevent over 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits, and over 20 million tons of crop losses a year by 2030 by reducing ground-level ozone pollution caused in part by methane. 

The European Union and eight countries have already indicated their support for the Global Methane Pledge. These countries include six of the top 15 methane emitters globally and together account for over one-fifth of global methane emissions and nearly half of the global economy.

The European Union has been taking steps to reduce its methane emissions for almost three decades. The European Commission strategy adopted in 1996 helped reduce methane emissions from landfilling by almost a half. Under the European Green Deal, and to support the European Union's commitment to climate neutrality by 2050, the European Union adopted in October 2020 a strategy to reduce methane emissions in all key sectors covering energy, agriculture and waste. The reduction of methane emissions in the current decade is an important part of the European Union's ambition for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This year, the European Commission will propose legislation to measure, report and verify methane emission, put limits on venting and flaring, and impose requirements to detect leaks, and repair them.  The European Commission is also working to accelerate the uptake of mitigation technologies through the wider deployment of ‘carbon farming' in European Union Member States and through their Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plans, and to promote biomethane production from agricultural waste and residues. Finally, the European Commission is supporting the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in establishing an independent International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) to address the global data gap and transparency in this area, including through a financial contribution. IMEO will play an important role in creating a sound scientific basis for methane emissions calculations and delivering the Global Methane Pledge in this regard.

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The United States is pursuing significant methane reductions on multiple fronts. In response to an Executive Order that President Biden issued on the first day of his Presidency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promulgating new regulations to curtail methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. In parallel, the EPA has taken steps to implement stronger pollution standards for landfills and the Department of Transportation's Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration is continuing to take steps that will reduce methane leakage from pipelines and related facilities. At the President's urging and in partnership with US farmers and ranchers, the US Department of Agriculture is working to significantly expand the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices that will reduce methane emissions from key agriculture sources by incentivizing the deployment of improved manure management systems, anaerobic digesters, new livestock feeds, composting and other practices. The US Congress is considering supplemental funding that would support many of these efforts. Among the proposals before the Congress, for example, is a major initiative to plug and remediate orphaned and abandoned oil, gas, and coal wells and mines, which would significantly reduce methane emissions. In addition, the United States continues to support collaborative international methane mitigation efforts, especially through its leadership of the Global Methane Initiative and CCAC.

The European Union and eight countries have already indicated their support for the Global Methane Pledge:

  • Argentina
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The United States, the European Union and other early supporters will continue to enlist additional countries to join the Global Methane Pledge pending its formal launch at COP 26.

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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.

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