The United States and the European Union have agreed to try and cut emissions of the planet-warming gas methane by about one-third by the end of this decade and are pushing other chief economies to join them, according to documents seen by the Reuters news agency.
Their pact comes as Washington and Brussels seek to galvanise other key economies ahead of a world summit to address climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, in November and could have a significant effect on the energy, agriculture and waste industries responsible for the bulk of methane emissions, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The greenhouse gas methane, the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), is facing more scrutiny as governments search for solutions to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F), a goal of the Paris climate agreement.
In an attempt to jumpstart the action, the US and the EU later this week will make a joint pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2020 levels, according to a draft of the Global Methane Pledge seen by Reuters.
“The short atmospheric lifetime of methane means that taking action now can rapidly reduce the rate of global warming,” the draft said.
A separate document listed more than two dozen countries that the US and the EU will ask to join the pledge. They include big emitters such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, as well as others including Norway, Qatar, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa.
The US State Department declined to comment and the European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the documents.
Higher heat-trapping potential
The agreement will probably be unveiled on Friday at a meeting of big emitting economies intended to rally support ahead of the COP26 Glasgow summit on climate change, Reuters said.
World leaders heading to Glasgow are under pressure from scientists, environmental advocates and growing popular sentiment to commit to more ambitious action to deal with the environmental crisis.
Methane has a higher heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster, so “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane emissions, in addition to slashing CO2 emissions, can have a climate impact quickly, a fact emphasised by a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month.
Experts say the fossil fuel industry has the biggest potential to cut methane emissions this decade by mending leaky pipelines or gas storage facilities, and many of those fixes can be done cheaply.
Yet satellite images and infrared footage have in recent years revealed methane emissions spewing out of oil and gas sites in countries including the EU and the United States.
The US and EU are both due to propose laws this year to restrict methane emissions.
The US-EU pledge would cover key sources of methane emissions, including old coal mines, agriculture and waste such as landfills, the draft said.
Countries that join the pledge would commit to taking domestic action to collectively achieve the target methane cut, “focusing on standards to achieve all feasible reductions in the energy and waste sectors” and reducing agricultural emissions through “technology innovation as well as incentives and partnerships with farmers,” it said.