Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Glasgow Climate Meeting & Methane

In just three weeks the world will gather for the COP26 Climatesummit in Glasgow, Scotland. This meeting hopes to bring together representatives of more than 190 nations including all the parties of the Paris Agreement to increase their target carbon dioxide emissions towards reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Under the Paris Agreement, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to countries not able to afford the costs of adapting to a changing climate. The parties to the agreement committed to create national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions called  Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Furthermore, they agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.

The meeting in Glasgow is that five year update delayed by a year due to the pandemic. This is truely necessary, because the commitments laid out in Paris did not even come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, and the window for achieving that goal is rapidly closing. As a matter of fact,  according to the IPCC’s Working Group I report issued in August:

Climate change is widespread and intensifying. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is at its highest level since the dawn of mankind. Before the COVID-19 pandemic when the data set used stops, emissions of carbon dioxide had been rising by about 1% per year on average for the past decade, not shrinking at all. Renewable energy use has been expanding rapidly, but much of the renewable energy is being deployed alongside existing fossil energy, not replacing it.  The planet has warmed 1.1 degrees C since the late 19th century and is expected to warm an additional 0.4 degrees C in the next 20 years.

Limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.” 

So, in preparation for the Glasgow meeting, last month, the United States and European Union announced the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce global methane emissions to be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November in Glasgow.  President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged countries at the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate to join the Pledge and welcomed those that have already signaled their support.  

Countries joining the Global Methane Pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% 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. So far, 24 nations and the EU have joined the pledge (several members of the EU have pledged both with the EU and as individual nations). The four largest emitters of methane, China, India, Russia and Brazil, however, have not joined yet. If all nations join the Pledge, it would reduce climate warming by about 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. 

The United States is pursuing significant methane reductionson multiple fronts. In response to an Executive Order that President Biden issued on his first day a President, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promulgating new regulations to curtail methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. In parallel, the EPA has taken steps to implement stronger pollution standards for landfills, and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration is continuing to take steps that will reduce methane leakage from pipelines and related facilities. At the President’s urging and in partnership with U.S. farmers and ranchers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to significantly expand the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices that will reduce methane emissions from key agriculture sources by incentivizing the deployment of improved manure management systems, anaerobic digesters, new livestock feeds, composting, and other practices. 

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