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Climate: Methane pact with over 150 countries: USA tightens rules

Climate: Methane pact with over 150 countries: USA tightens rules

Emissions of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, can often be reduced relatively easily. Germany has partly shown the way. The USA now wants to take tougher action against the problem.

In the fight against global warming, the USA wants to push ahead with reducing emissions of climate-damaging methane. The US government announced new standards at the UN climate conference in Dubai over the weekend that will require oil and gas producers to plug methane leaks. Germany and the EU are already one step further.

Methane escapes, among other things, from the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas, but is also produced in the stomachs of cows and sheep and in garbage dumps. The concentration of methane is increasing faster than that of the most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

According to the World Weather Organization, it is currently more than 2.5 times the value before the industrial revolution. At the same time, methane can often be reduced more cost-effectively than carbon dioxide.

Over 150 countries are part of the pact

The EU and the USA initiated an international agreement at the climate conference two years ago, the Global Methane Pledge (GMP), which over 150 countries have now joined – they emit just over half of man-made methane. However, China, India and Russia are missing. There will be a meeting of the Methane Alliance in Dubai at the beginning of the week, and new initiatives are expected.

The member countries of the methane pact want to reduce their emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 to 2030. According to the initiative, if nothing is done, they will rise globally by up to 13 percent. The agreement has the potential to reduce global warming by at least 0.2 degrees by 2050.

But according to Bill Hare, head of the organization Climate Analytics, it is not enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. This requires a global reduction of 34 percent by 2030.

Federal government warns about methane

The federal government also warned on Sunday in Dubai about the particularly aggressive greenhouse gas methane. If emissions can be reduced quickly worldwide, there will be rapid progress in the fight against global warming, said Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Climate Ministry, Stefan Wenzel. Satellites can now be used to locate exactly where there are leaks in oil drilling rigs or gas fields.

The head of the Federal Environment Agency, Dirk Messner, said in Dubai that the gas was almost 30 times more aggressive than carbon dioxide, to which most attention had been paid for decades. He called for binding global rules in the fight against methane, especially in oil and gas countries. This must be combined with monitoring and checking.

China recently presented its own 14-page methane reduction plan. It does not contain any concrete figures or data for the overall reduction and contains many individual, mostly unspecific specifications. For example, more use should be made of the methane escaping from coal mines.

Develop a national methane plan

The EU Parliament and countries also agreed in mid-November to tighten the rules for the oil, gas and coal industries – with clear timetables. Here, too, oil and gas plant operators should regularly search for and repair major methane leaks. The flaring of methane is banned in many places.

“Overall, the Global Methane Pledge has managed to draw attention to the issue,” says climate officer for the organization Germanwatch, Thea Uhlich. In fact, the USA and the EU refer to many new international initiatives and funding, including from private foundations, in a joint letter. 50 countries are in the process of developing a national methane plan.

“Ultimately, of course, what counts is whether the GMP actually leads to methane reductions that would not have occurred without it,” says Uhlich. There was still a lack of data to assess success.

According to the European Environment Agency, the EU has already reduced its methane emissions by 36 percent between 1990 and 2020. This happened primarily in the energy and waste sectors. According to the Federal Environment Agency (Uba), Germany even reduced its methane emissions by 66 percent between 1990 and 2022.

One factor is the end of hard coal production, but not only: mine gas is extracted and used, and less gas is also escaping from landfills. According to Uba, what is crucial here is the expansion of the circular economy, for example with waste separation and the use of biogas.

Source: Stern

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