The US has announced plans to reduce methane emissions by 80% over the next 15 years.
The US has declared a significant initiative to reduce methane emissions, joining other nations at the Cop28 summit in addressing the “super pollutant” that exacerbates the climate emergency.
The United States has utilized the climate conference, organized by the United Nations and currently taking place in Dubai, as a platform to introduce new policies that are projected to reduce methane emissions from its extensive oil and gas sector by 80%. This amounts to a decrease of 58 million tonnes by 2038 compared to levels without the regulation.
At Cop28, countries have implemented measures to control methane, a greenhouse gas that has a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide but is significantly more potent in contributing to global warming. Methane is responsible for about 33% of the current warming of the Earth and the US is among the top emitters of this gas.
According to Michael Regan, the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, reducing methane emissions is one of the most crucial steps the United States can take to immediately decrease the impact of climate change. This rule has been established by the agency.
Regan announced that the latest rules would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 billion metric tonnes. This is approximately the same amount of pollution produced by the entire power sector in the US or 28 million cars powered by fossil fuels over the course of 15 years. The regulation mandates that oil and gas companies must seal leaks from current facilities, end the common practice of gas flaring from wells, and improve surveillance of methane emissions.
Regan stated that the significance of this groundbreaking regulation cannot be exaggerated. He believes that this exemplifies true leadership in global climate efforts.
At the recently held Cop28, it was announced that a total of $1 billion has been gathered from various countries, businesses, and donors to aid in the reduction of methane emissions globally. In addition, Angola, Kenya, Romania, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan have joined the global methane pledge, which was established by the US and EU during Cop26 in Scotland. The goal of this initiative is to decrease methane emissions by 30% by 2030, and currently, over 150 countries have committed to this goal.
The addition of Turkmenistan to the promise holds great importance. In May, The Guardian exposed the country’s incredibly high levels of methane emissions, which played a key role in motivating the country to take action. It is believed that addressing the country’s old gas infrastructure could effectively reduce these major sources of emissions.
John Kerry, the United States’ representative for climate issues, stated that nations have previously disregarded methane and other harmful substances that contribute to climate change, instead prioritizing efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. According to the former Secretary of State, taking action on methane is the most efficient and cost-effective way to start making progress in combatting global warming.
Even though there has been progress in reducing methane emissions, the results have been inconsistent. Kayrros, a French company that supplies data to the UN, recently shared a publicly available map showing methane leaks. Since 2019, they have discovered over 5,600 instances of super-emitting events, which can emit the same amount of pollutants as millions of car engines.
On Friday, Kayrros released data showing there has been no overall reduction in methane emitted by many of the signatories to the global methane pledge. Australia was one of the few countries to have cut methane recently, while in the US emissions are actually increasing.
Satellite imaging is being used to quickly increase the examination of significant methane emitters. The UN’s system for alerting and responding to methane is now fully functioning and has already informed operators of 127 major methane clouds on four different continents.
Within 75 days of being detected in January, emissions events will be publicly announced, exposing and condemning those responsible. This system has already proven successful in Argentina, as it identified and reported 10 methane leaks near three oil and gas facilities earlier this year. The operators were informed and took action to fix faulty equipment, ultimately stopping the leaks.
At the Cop28 event on Saturday, there was a discussion about methane. This took place during a day where world leaders gave speeches at the large Expo City venue. The venue was hot and crowded, as a record number of over 84,000 delegates were in attendance. The venue was also affected by pollution from the Middle Eastern sun.
Due to a case of bronchitis, Pope Francis was unable to attend and his message was delivered by a Vatican representative. The message emphasized the importance of protecting the environment as it is seen as a transgression against God. The Pope urged everyone to choose life and to consider the future.
On the third day of Cop28, there were other advancements such as the US joining a coalition of nations that have committed to not constructing any new coal power plants. Additionally, Colombia, one of the few countries that produce oil, became the 10th country to join a treaty that prohibits the proliferation of fossil fuels.
Over 100 countries have indicated their backing for incorporating a fossil fuel phase-out into the Cop28 agreement, although there is opposition from influential nations heavily involved in oil and gas extraction.
According to Fatih Birol, the leader of the International Energy Agency, the oil and gas sector must transition to renewable energy in order to avoid significant economic downfall. Currently, only 2.5% of the industry’s capital is being invested in renewable energy, which Birol expressed as an inadequate amount.
“Birol expressed a strong desire for a clear indication to energy markets that the consumption of fossil fuels must decrease,” he told the Guardian.