More than a hundred countries, including Belgium, signed a pledge in Glasgow to cut emissions of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, by 30 percent by 2030. Solutions are available: hunt for cows, plug leaky natural gas pipelines and reduce food waste.
US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed more than 100 countries on Tuesday as they pledged to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Belgium also joined the ambitious methane coalition. Australia, a major user of fossil fuels, applied to participate last week.
- Europe and the United States are withdrawing a new methane strategy in Glasgow. More than a hundred countries join. They have pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
- Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it decays within ten to fifteen years. Therefore, combating methane emissions is making rapid gains in the fight against climate change.
- Methane leaks regularly, especially from oil and gas pipelines. Other sources of methane are cow wind and food waste.
The rapid advance of methane in the climate debate is astounding. So far, the calculations have been done mainly using carbon dioxide (CO2) as the most important greenhouse gas. Methane is the most potent greenhouse gas. It could make the Earth 80 times warmer than carbon dioxide in 20 years. But the blanket that methane lays around the Earth lasts only fifteen years at most. While carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for centuries.
Measures taken against methane could have a visible effect within fifteen years. Von der Leyen describes the 30 percent reduction in methane emissions as “picking the hanging fruit.” Collective action could reduce global warming by 0.2 or 0.3 degrees, says Mark Vanheuchelen, the European climate diplomat who devised the methane strategy.
Biden’s participation gave the project wings. He talks about a “game-changing promise,” a turning point in the fight against climate change. Combating methane also leads to important health gains, especially in asthma and respiratory problems.
Looking for cows
The main causes of methane emissions are agriculture, waste and energy. Solutions exist for these three sectors to reduce emissions. An important requirement is that there be clarity about the amount of methane released. Now this happens with a wet finger. Therefore, the Strategic Committee links the measurement, reporting and verification of methane emissions. The United Nations Environment Program Unep is setting up an observatory for these purposes. In time, this verification will lead to the standards.
Winds from cows release a great deal of methane into the atmosphere. A Swiss trial has shown that methane emissions from cows can be reduced by a third by adding garlic. The researchers also reported that the taste of that cow and its milk did not change as a result of garlic treatment. Other alternatives are also being tested, such as giving cows seaweed.
Without a solution to the methane winds, it may be necessary to reduce consumption of beef and dairy products. Experts say this trend has already begun. Methane is also common in food waste. A proper waste treatment system with methane capture will be needed worldwide.
Vanheukelen says the methane approach to the energy sector is paying off. A huge amount is lost during the exploitation and extraction of natural gas. Many pipelines are leaking. In some countries, 6 percent of natural gas never reaches. Natural gas is 90 percent methane. Upon combustion, it turns into carbon dioxide. So 6 percent goes up in the air.
Many pipelines are leaking. In some countries, 6 percent of natural gas never reaches. That 6 percent, especially methane, goes into the air.
The United States has also announced plans to significantly reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by requiring companies to find and seal leaks quickly. “One of the most important things we can do during this critical decade to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees is reduce methane emissions as quickly as possible,” Biden said. “This is not just something we have to do. This is an opportunity. He adds that his country may do more than 30% reduction. Part of the US strategy is also to reduce methane emissions from farmers and ranchers.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the first oil and gas producing country to adopt the methane challenge. Canada, which has failed to meet its pledges on carbon emissions by 2020, is aiming for a broad cut in methane emissions by 2030. Trudeau pledges to cut methane emissions by three-quarters by 2030.
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