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COP26: US and EU announce global pledge to slash methane

A partnership between the US and EU has been announced in the hope of slashing the greenhouse gases caused by methane before 2030. This partnership was publicised at the COP26 by EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden. The goals of the Global Methane Pledge is to restrict methane emissions by 30% contrasting 2020 levels.

Amongst global warming caused by human actions, methane is accountable for a third of the total emissions while also being one of the most potent. Methane molecules, though less numerous than CO2 have the capacity to do more damage due to the greater warming effects on the atmosphere than a single CO2 molecule. Spotlighting methane will allow breathing room while buying extra time to confront climate change. While the main goal of the COP26 is to reach net-zero by 2050, we cannot wait until 2050 due to the time sensitive matter of the issue we confront. As speed is of the essence, methane is considered low hanging fruit that can buy us time to confront the more long term factor of climate change. The pledge covers countries that are responsible for half of the worlds emissions and make up 70% of global GDP.

The United States of America and European Union flags

Cutting methane emissions to 30% by 2030

The speed and seriousness at which the world has moved to confront methane emissions is extremely encouraging, as it shows the world finally waking up to the colossal threat posed by greenhouse gases. Methane is the main cause for the majority of the one degree Celsius of warming the world has already experienced. The initiative to cut emissions 30% by 2030 as most of the restraints are capable of being achieved with little to no cost, with the potential of circumventing a 0.30C of warming by 2040. Targeting the fossil fuel industry in the short term, the global pledge created by the EU and US has managed to shepherd many of the worst emitters into the club. However, all is not as good as it would seem as major emitters like Russia, China and India have not yet joined the pledge, and all commitments are optional.

Polution rising from power plant

The methane emission comes from two sources: 60% comes from human activities stretching from agriculture such as cattle and rice production to rubbish dumps, while 40% is naturally occurring from wetlands. In 2008 there was an enormous surge in the production of methane emissions due to a boom in the fracking for gas across the US while being coupled with production transport and use of natural gas. Record levels of methane in the atmosphere have been reached in 2019 - roughly two and a half times they were pre-industrial era. What has many scientists concerned is the amount of damage methane can do in heating up the earth. In a 20 year time frame it is approximately 84 times as destructive per unit of mass as carbon dioxide; and individual molecules of methane are able to stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.


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