New global methane pledge aims to tackle climate change

Over 100 countries representing 70 per cent of the global economy have now joined the Pledge .

The United States, the European Union, and partners formally launched the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce global methane emissions to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.  A total of over 100 countries representing 70 per cent of the global economy and nearly half of anthropogenic methane emissions have now signed onto the pledge.   

The strong global support for the Pledge illustrates growing momentum to swiftly reduce methane emissions—widely regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming.  Countries joining the Global Methane Pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030 and moving towards using best available inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources.  The countries who have joined the Pledge represent all regions of the world and include representatives from developed and developing nations. 

The U.S. and EU are also proud to announce a significant expansion of financial and technical support to assist implementation of the Pledge. Global philanthropies have committed $328 million in funding to support scale up of these types of methane mitigation strategies worldwide. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, and the Green Climate Fund have committed to support the Pledge through both technical assistance and project finance. The International Energy Agency will also serve as an implementation partner. 

Delivering on the Global Methane Pledge would reduce warming by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050, providing a crucial foundation for global climate change mitigation efforts.  In addition, according to the Global Methane Assessment from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), achieving the 2030 goal would prevent over 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits, and over 20 million tons of crop losses a year by 2030. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas tens of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere. It is a short-lived climate pollutant with an atmospheric lifetime of roughly a decade. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research shows that methane is responsible for at least a quarter of today’s global warming and reducing human-caused methane, which accounts for more than half of all methane emissions, is one of the most effective ways of combatting climate change. 

The recent Global Methane Assessment launched by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that cutting human-caused methane by 45 per cent this decade would keep warming beneath the threshold agreed by world leaders. This alone would avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s. Each year it would prevent 255,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 26 million tonnes of crop losses globally. 

Methane from human activity falls into three main sectors: agriculture (40 per cent), fossil fuels (35 per cent) and waste (20 per cent). Livestock farming is a key cause of methane in the agriculture sector. In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounts for 23 per cent, and coal mining accounts for 12 per cent of emissions. With pre-existing technology, a 75 per cent reduction in methane from the oil and gas sector is possible, 50 per cent of this could be done at no net cost. 

“Cutting methane emissions is the best way to slow climate change over the next 25 years,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. 

“The Global Methane Pledge has great potential to increase ambition and improve cooperation by countries. UNEP will support efforts to turn commitments into actual emissions reductions through the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.”  

UNEP is increasingly working to highlight and combat methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, including through IMEO, a data-driven, action-focused initiative to address methane. It does this by collecting, integrating and reconciling data from all sources to provide transparency, science, reports and recommendations on how governments can use this data to develop and implement policies to curb methane emissions from fossil fuels. 

“UNEP’s work in reducing methane emissions is part of its wider efforts to address the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, said. “To help advance these goals, UNEP has developed a Six-Sector Solution to cutting emissions. The solution provides a roadmap for reducing emissions across sectors to meet the annual 29-32 gigaton reduction needed to limit temperature rise. The six sectors identified are agriculture and food; forests and land use; buildings and cities; transport; energy, and cities.” 

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