US, EU to pledge action on slashing methane gas emissions

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON • The United States and the European Union have agreed to aim at cutting emissions of the planet-warming gas methane by around a third by the end of this decade and are pushing other major economies to join them, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Their pact comes as Washington and Brussels seek to galvanise other major economies ahead of a world summit to address climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, and could have a significant impact on the energy, agriculture and waste industries responsible for the bulk of methane emissions.

The greenhouse gas methane, the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), is facing more scrutiny as governments seek solutions to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.

In an attempt to jump-start action, the US and the EU will later this week make a joint pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030 in comparison to 2020 levels, according to a draft of the Global Methane Pledge seen by Reuters.

"The short atmospheric lifetime of methane means that taking action now can rapidly reduce the rate of global warming," the draft says.

A separate document listed more than two dozen countries that the US and the EU will target to join the pledge. They include major emitters such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, as well as others including Norway, Qatar, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa.

The agreement would likely be unveiled on Friday at a meeting of major emitting economies intended to rally support ahead of the COP26 Glasgow summit.

World leaders are under pressure from scientists and environmental advocates and the growing popular sentiment to commit to more ambitious action to curb climate change in Glasgow.

Methane has higher heat-trapping potential than CO2, but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster, so "strong, rapid and sustained reductions" can have a climate impact quickly - a fact emphasised by a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month.

Experts say the fossil fuel sector has the biggest potential to cut methane emissions this decade by mending leaky pipelines or gas storage facilities, and many of those fixes can be done at a low cost.

Countries that join the pledge would commit to take domestic action to collectively achieve the target methane cut, "focusing on standards to achieve all feasible reductions in the energy and waste sectors" and reducing agricultural emissions, it said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'US, EU to pledge action on slashing methane gas emissions'. Subscribe