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A Step Forward With the Global Methane Pledge

Smoke streams from the chimneys of the E.ON coal-fired power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The U.N. weather agency says levels of carbon dioxide and methane, the two most important greenhouse gases, reached record highs last year. (File)

The United States and European Union have launched a global pledge to significantly reduce emissions of methane gas by the end of the decade.

A Step Forward With the Global Methane Pledge
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The United States and European Union have launched a global pledge to significantly reduce emissions of methane gas by the end of the decade, said President Joe Biden in mid-September at the Major Economies Forum, a high-level virtual meeting on climate change

“We’re working with the European Union and other partners to launch a Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

This will not only rapidly reduce the rate of global warming, but it will also produce a very valuable side benefit, like improving public health and agricultural output.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas that accounts for about half of the net 1.0-degree Celsius increase in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era. It is not as abundant in our atmosphere as carbon dioxide but is far more efficient at warming the planet. And as a precursor to toxic ground level ozone gas, it is also a threat to public health and agricultural productivity. It causes respiratory problems such as asthma in children, respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, and even exacerbates cardiovascular disease. It also causes major crop losses every year around the world.

But as the main constituent of natural gas used for heating and cooking, methane is also valuable. Profits from methane gas captured from landfills and rotting agricultural waste, pipeline leaks or industrial emissions can pay for the effort and investment into technology needed to snare it. Stopping the gas from escaping into the atmosphere pays for itself.

Countries accounting for nearly half of the global economy, including six of the top 10 methane emitters, have already indicated support for the Global Methane Pledge.

But that’s not enough. Countries may have widely varying methane emissions profiles and reduction potential, but all can contribute to achieving the collective global goal through additional domestic methane reduction and international cooperative actions.

“We’re mobilizing support to help developing countries join and pledge to do something significant, pledge and seize this virtual opportunity,” said President Biden.

“We’ve already taken big steps domestically to tackle these emissions and create good paying jobs introduced by plugging leaks and capping abandoned wells and gas wells.”

“We believe the collective goal is both ambitious but realistic. And we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge.”