US, EU line up over 20 more countries for global methane pact

The pledge will now cover 60 per cent of global GDP and 30 per cent of global methane emissions. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Two dozen countries have joined a United States- and European Union-led effort to slash methane emissions 30 per cent by 2030 from 2020 levels, giving the emerging global partnership momentum ahead of its launch at the UN climate summit in Glasgow later this month.

Nigeria, Japan and Pakistan are among the 24 new signatories to the Global Methane Pledge, which was first announced by the US and EU in September with the aim of galvanising rapid climate action before the start of the Scotland summit on Oct 31.

The pledge will now cover 60 per cent of global gross domestic product and 30 per cent of global methane emissions. If fulfilled, it would have a significant impact on the energy, agriculture and waste sectors responsible for the bulk of methane emissions.

The new signatories include Canada, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Micronesia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malta, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sweden and Togo, the US State Department and EU confirmed on Monday (Oct 11).

The nine original partners include Britain, Indonesia and Mexico, which signed on to the pledge when it was announced last month.

Methane is a greenhouse gas and the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2). Several recent reports have highlighted the need for governments to crack down on methane to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C, the goal of the Paris climate agreement.

US special climate change envoy John Kerry said he hoped to have more than 100 countries signed up in time for the COP26 climate summit.

"We look forward to welcoming all governments that are ready to tackle methane as the single fastest strategy that we have to keep a safer 1.5 deg C future within reach," Mr Kerry said.

More than 20 philanthropic organisations, including ones led by Mr Michael Bloomberg and Mr Bill Gates, said on Monday they would mobilise over US$223 million (S$301.8 million) to support countries' methane reduction efforts.

The countries involved represent a range of different methane emissions profiles. For example, Pakistan's main source of methane emissions is agriculture, while Indonesia's main source is waste.

The US and Nigeria, meanwhile, have significant oil and gas sector methane emissions.

"It's one of those tools which can really assist us in avoiding the tipping point on climate change. This is a fast track solution," Pakistan's climate minister Malik Amin Aslam said.

Pakistan contributes less than 1 per cent of the world's emissions, but roughly a quarter of the country's greenhouse gas output is methane.

"We all have different starting points and different local situations. But we also all have the possibility to reduce our methane emissions substantially," European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.

A government official told Reuters the US will engage with India and China to urge them to join the pledge in the weeks leading up to the UN climate summit.

Russian climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriev said the country would analyse the initiative, but did not confirm if it would join.

'One move left'

Methane has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2 but breaks down in the atmosphere faster. A landmark UN scientific report released in August said "strong, rapid and sustained reductions" in methane emissions, in addition to slashing CO2 emissions, could have a fast impact on the climate.

The United States is due to release oil and gas methane regulations in the coming weeks, and the European Union will unveil detailed methane legislation later this year.

Canada will also bring forward regulation to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector at least 75 per cent by 2030 from 2012 levels, climate minister Jonathan Wilkinson said on Monday.

Mr Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which contributed to the US$200 million fund, told Reuters the money will "help catalyse climate action" and that reducing methane is the quickest way to help carry out the 1.5 deg C goal.

Mr Durwood Zaelke, president of the Washington-based Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the partnership was a "great start" for focusing the world's attention on the need to slash methane.

"There's one move left to keep the planet from catastrophe - cutting methane as fast as we can from all sources," he said by e-mail ahead of the announcement.

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