Is the Global Methane Pledge Just “Words on Paper”?

Cover climate nowThis column is part of Cover climate now, a global journalism collaboration co-founded by Columbia Journalism Review and The nation to strengthen reporting on climate history.

TDuring his week at COP26, more than 70 countries, led by the European Union and the United States, officially expressed their commitment to the Global methane promise: a promise to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Some of the world’s largest methane emitters – China, Russia, Australia – haven’t signed up, and the G20 didn’t commit this week. But activists say the global promise is important nonetheless.

“The power is that for the first time leaders stand up and say, ‘We are committed to cutting methane emissions in the shortest possible time,'” said Jonathan Banks, international director of the Clean Air Task Force. Banks added that the global pledge will free up funding from the nonprofit sector, and in fact, philanthropists have already vowed to give governments $ 200 million to help countries cut their methane emissions.

Sharon Wilson, Senior Field Advocate and Optical Imaging Specialist at EarthWorks, is less optimistic but still positive about the promise. “I think the promise is important because it brings global attention to a global problem,” she told me. Wilson emphasizes, however, that “a promise is just words on paper”. The actual methane reductions will be much more difficult.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a warming power of more than 80 times that of CO2. It’s also much more short-lived, meaning that rapid control could delay warming, ideally long enough to remove CO. to manage2 Emissions. Methane is responsible for about 25 percent of the warming over the past decade. A latest UN report found that if man-made methane emissions were cut 45 percent by 2030, half a degree (0.3 degrees Celsius) warming could be prevented by mid-century. the Global methane assessment, published in May 2021, found that a 45 percent reduction in methane emissions this decade could keep global warming at 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, which is the goal of the Paris Agreement. That math also includes animal husbandry, which accounts for 32 percent of man-made methane emissions. The Global Methane Pledge covers all sectors, but the main focus has been on the fossil fuel industry. Inger Andresen, head of the United Nations Environment Program, quickly pointed out that the reduction of methane is not a “Get out of jail for free”Map of the climate.


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