U.S. and EU Vow Steep Methane Cuts Ahead of Climate Summit
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and European Union have agreed to a plan to cut emissions of methane by about a third by the end of the decade as part of a diplomatic push to get other nations to take aim at the powerful planet-warming gas, according to people familiar with the effort.
The U.S. is now asking other nations to join the “global methane pledge” -- an expected topic of discussion during a virtual meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate that President Joe Biden is convening on Friday. The meeting is timed to help build momentum before a United Nations-sponsored climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, set to run Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
Biden plans to unveil the methane pledge at the Glasgow climate summit, according to an invitation he sent to Argentine President Alberto Fernandez posted on the presidential website.
The methane pledge would represent the first global political commitment to pare methane, amid increasingly urgent warnings that reductions of the greenhouse gas are essential to reduce warming and avoid feedback loops that lock in climate changes.
Countries signing the global methane pledge would “commit to work together toward a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030 and to implement related domestic actions,” according to a background memo distributed to officials invited to the Friday meeting and seen by Bloomberg News. The U.S. and European Union plan to co-host “a high-level preparatory meeting” on the issue in early October, according to the document.
Nations that sign on to the pledge are agreeing to pare methane emissions across the board, without singling out specific, planned reductions from certain high-emitting sectors, such as oil and agriculture.
The Biden administration is working to recruit at least two dozen other countries to join the effort before the international climate summit next month, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
The people asked not to be named to discuss the matter before a public announcement.
The Biden administration has been working on the methane pact for months -- part of a strategy to build multilateral climate commitments that buttress nations’ individual emissions-cutting pledges under the Paris agreement.
“We’re addressing this as a diplomatic imperative,” Rick Duke, senior director and White House liaison for the special presidential envoy for climate change, said in a forum on methane last month. “We cannot look to a single agreement in order to cut methane pollution with the speed and comprehensiveness that we require. It’s going to require a sustained diplomacy, sustained programmatic work, action by governments and industry spanning all these opportunities.”
The U.S.-EU agreement was previously reported by Reuters. The White House declined to comment on the report, and the office of John Kerry, special envoy for climate, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Representatives of the EU had no immediate comment, but an EU official familiar with the matter confirmed the pledge is to be presented to the forum on Friday.
During Friday’s meeting, Biden will push nations to get more aggressive in scaling up climate action, according to the memo for attendees.
The session will be an opportunity for leaders to share with one another further commitments and actions, including stepped-up carbon-cutting pledges they will advance before the summit in Glasgow, the memo said.
“The science tells us we have vanishingly little time left to slow global warming before we start passing serious climate tipping points,” said Sarah Smith, director of the super pollutants program at the Clean Air Task Force. The forthcoming global methane pledge reflects what UN scientific panels and other bodies “say we must do to directly reduce methane and set ourselves on a pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”
Methane is 84 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide during the two decades after it is first released and it is thought to be responsible for at least a quarter of current warming.
Within weeks, the Biden administration is slated to propose the most aggressive federal methane mandates yet for oil and gas wells, including hundreds of thousands that were drilled long ago but have so far escaped direct methane curbs. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency also is expected to propose tightening Obama-era requirements for routine inspections and rapid repairs of leaking equipment at wells that are newly drilled or modified.
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