U.S., Europe Announce Plans to Dramatically Cut Methane Emissions

The trans-Atlantic partners have announced an effort to cut methane emissions by 30 percent in an effort to meet commitments outlined by the Paris Agreement.

Sep. 27, 2021
By Paolo DeAndreis

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United States President Joe Biden has announced a new plan to curb the vast quan­ti­ties of methane emis­sions in the atmos­phere at the Major Economies Forum (MEF).

In part­ner­ship with the European Union, the U.S. has launched a Global Methane Pledge to cut methane emis­sions by nearly 30 per­cent of 2020 lev­els by the end of the decade.

When you think about it, going down 30 per­cent in a decade when it’s been going up, that’s a huge rever­sal… If they pull this off, this could be huge.- Drew Shindell, Earth sci­ences pro­fes­sor, Duke University

This will not only rapidly reduce the rate of global warm­ing, but it will also pro­duce a very valu­able side ben­e­fit, like improv­ing pub­lic health and agri­cul­tural out­put,” Biden said. We’re mobi­liz­ing sup­port to help devel­op­ing coun­tries that join and pledge to do some­thing sig­nif­i­cant, pledge and seize this vital oppor­tu­nity.”

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Methane is one of the most pol­lut­ing green­house gases. Its abil­ity to trap solar radi­a­tion is 25 times greater than car­bon diox­ide, accord­ing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the U.S., methane accounts for about 10 per­cent of all green­house gas emis­sions.

Human activ­i­ties emit­ting methane include leaks from nat­ural gas sys­tems and the rais­ing of live­stock,” the EPA said. Methane is also emit­ted by nat­ural sources such as nat­ural wet­lands.”

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Methane is processed by soil and chem­i­cal reac­tions in the atmos­phere which deter­mine its removal. Its lifes­pan as pol­lut­ing gas is much shorter than car­bon diox­ide.

At the meet­ing, Biden also empha­sized how the United States has com­mit­ted to reduce green­house gas emis­sions between 50 and 52 per­cent below 2005 lev­els by the year 2030.”

And, you know, we’ve set a goal that by 2035 our power sec­tor will be free of car­bon,” he added. And by 2030, 50 per­cent of cars sold in the United States, we believe should be and must be elec­tric vehi­cles.”

According to EPA data, in 2017 the U.S. accounted for 15 per­cent of global emis­sions from fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion and some indus­trial processes, while the European Union accounted for eight per­cent and China for 30 per­cent.

While the European Union has recently launched its plan to cut green­house gas emis­sions in half by 2030, China has announced plans to restore wet­lands along with sev­eral other mea­sures to limit some of its own emis­sions.

According to new research, the 131 coun­tries respon­si­ble for 72 per­cent of the global emis­sions have announced or are enforc­ing sim­i­lar emis­sion-reduc­tion plans. This may prove to be effec­tive in slightly lim­it­ing the pro­jected global tem­per­a­ture rise, the paper pub­lished in Nature states.

National net zero emis­sion tar­gets could, if fully imple­mented, reduce best esti­mates of pro­jected global aver­age tem­per­a­ture increase to 2.0 to 2.4 °C by 2100, bring­ing the Paris Agreement tem­per­a­ture goal within reach,” the team of European sci­en­tists who authored the report wrote.

These tar­gets could sub­stan­tially lower pro­jected warm­ing as com­pared to cur­rently imple­mented poli­cies (2.9 to 3.2 °C) or pledges sub­mit­ted to the Paris Agreement (2.4 to 2.9 °C),” they added.

Recently, the unprece­dented coor­di­nated ini­tia­tive of hun­dreds of health sci­ence jour­nals through­out the world pub­lished an edi­to­r­ial warn­ing that even a 1.5 °C increase in world tem­per­a­ture would be con­sid­ered cat­a­strophic for human health to the point that the dam­ages will be impos­si­ble to reverse.”

The Global Methane Pledge has been wel­comed by sev­eral sci­en­tists.

Drew Shindell, a pro­fes­sor of Earth sci­ences at Duke University, told CNN that when you think about it, going down 30 per­cent in a decade when it’s been going up, that’s a huge rever­sal, it’s a u‑turn. If they pull this off, this could be huge.”

According to recent research from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the reduc­tion of methane is to be con­sid­ered a high pri­or­ity in the war against the green­house effect.

SEI pro­jec­tions show that if human sources of methane emis­sions were reduced by 45 per­cent by 2030, this would avoid nearly 0.3 °C of warm­ing after 2040, con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to keep­ing the 1.5 ºC Paris Agreement tar­get within reach.”





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