In an attempt to slow global warming, the European Union and the United States want to significantly reduce methane emissions. The EU and the US today presented a plan promising to emit thirty percent less methane by 2030 than in 2020.
Methane greenhouse gas (CH4) is the most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2) and accounts for about a quarter of the current global warming. It is mainly released in oil and gas production, but agriculture, cattle husbandry (cows) and waste disposal are also important methane producers. The intention to reduce methane emissions can have a major impact on these sectors, Reuters news agency reported earlier.
Halt global warming
Methanes contribution to climate change is increasingly beneath a magnifying glass. The greenhouse gas is seen as a problem and a solution. Methanes lifespan is much shorter than CO2, which remains active for tens or even hundreds of years. But in that shorter period, the gas contributes more to warming the Earth than CO2. The advantage: reducing methane emissions has a relatively rapid effect on the pace and extent to which the Earth heats up.
Thats not the only benefit, according to US President Joe Biden. In an explanation of the plan, Biden says that a reduction in methane emissions also benefits public health.
According to a recent UN study, a strong reduction in global warming over the next ten years could ultimately save 0.3 degrees worldwide. “That sounds like little but thats huge,” says Jonathan Banks of Clear Air Task Force, an organization that lobbies for stricter legislation on methane. In addition, the pace of warming up can be slowed down. “That allows us to buy time. This makes it more likely that we can avert irreversible tipping points such as ice sheet melting. So this is a really big step,” Banks says.
In the run-up to the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, pressure is increasing on countries to announce more measures to limit global warming. Last month, the UN climate panel IPCC already advocated addressing methane in its report. According to the authors, it becomes virtually impossible to limit warming to one and a half degrees without a rapid and strong reduction of methane. The methane concentration has not been so high in 800,000 years, climate scientists conclude.
“Other countries must join”
Washington and Brusselss intention to reduce methane emissions by thirty percent is not legally binding. So there are no consequences if the goal is not met. The EU and the US are calling for other major methane emitters such as China, Russia, India and Brazil to join the plan. New legislation to reduce methane emissions will also be presented in both the US and the EU later this year. For example, oil and gas companies could be required to detect and repair methane leaks on their refineries.