Global Methane Pledge grows to 150 nations, but China stops short of full commitment

Pictured: John Kerry at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Image: UNFCCC, Kira Worth.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry confirmed the milestone at a side event at COP27 late on Thursday (17 November), held to mark one year since the Global Methane Pledge opened to new joiners at COP26.

At the time of launch, the Pledge had around 100 backers. Now, it has 150. Recent joiners include Egypt, the COP27 host; Qatar; Bahrain; Austria and Australia. Australia has received much attention this COP, as the summit has fallen just four months after it published a landmark new climate bill including a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, against a 2005 baseline.

Still notably absent from the Pledge are India, Russia and China. However, Kerry did invite China’s Special Envoy for Climate, Xie Zhenhua, to the stage. Zhenhua called Kerry a “good friend” and confirmed that China is drawing up a national methane plan and will soon have final approval for publication. Whether the plan is consistent with the Pledge requirements, paving the way for China to sign up in the future, remains to be seen.

Action on methane is increasingly being recognized as crucial to limiting the global temperature increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, but that its atmospheric life is only around 12 years, compared with decades or even centuries for other GHGs.

The US has stated that all new Global Methane Pledge joiners have either developed national plans to reduce methane or are in the process of doing so. It has also emphasised that, over the past few weeks, more clarity has been provided on how nations will reduce methane from the two biggest sources – the fossil fuel sector and animal agriculture.

On methane from fossil fuels, several developed nations have signed a joint declaration intended to reduce methane across the sector globally, preventing high-methane imports from undercutting domestic production in nations with higher standards. There is also a focus on signatory nations implementing stricter regulations on venting, flaring and leaks domestically.

The declaration was signed as the World Bank confirmed that it will launch the next phase of its Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership next year. This facility provides finance and technical assistance to fossil fuel players in developing and emerging economies.

Kerry also highlighted last week’s confirmation that the UN will launch a new satellite system to detect methane ‘hotspots’, allowing governments and businesses to respond to instances in which large quantities of methane are released. The UN Environment Programme’s International Methane Emissions Observatory will oversee this project.

Agriculture and waste focus

According to the IEA, the global energy sector generated 134 million tonnes of methane in 2019, while agriculture generated 139 million tonnes. The two main sources here are rice paddies and livestock. Yet, many green groups focused on food systems have expressed concerns that the Global Methane Pledge has been slower to address agriculture than energy.

The Pledge has, therefore, launched a new ‘pathway’ for food and agriculture emissions. There are plans to leverage up to $400m to reduce emissions from diary systems in developing nations across Africa and Asia, in addition to a new $70m R&D accelerator focused on enteric fermentation (i.e. methane generated from grazing animals, predominantly cows). An additional $500m has been promised by the US Government’s Department of Agriculture, to be spent on reducing food waste, boosting anaerobic digestion and switching animal feeds.

The EU used its presence at the event to confirm that 40% of the budget for its updated Common Agricultural Policy for paying farmers, which will launch next year, will be dedicated to climate-related measures. Methane monitoring, reporting and reduction are slated to be a key focus.

A new Pledge pathway is also being launched for waste, which accounts for around one-fifth of methane from human activities. The initial focus will be on solid waste.

On waste, Carbon Mapper has been supported to launch a global waste sector baseline assessment of more than 10,000 landfills and dumping sites. The US and EU have also launched new regional platforms for collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Several key financial insttutions have already stated their intention to support the Pledge pathway for waste, including the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Government of Canada.

“Methane is the cheapest and fastest way to slow down global warming in the years ahead,” said the European Commission’s climate lead Frans Timmermans. “If we are serious, we can reduce the accelerating global warming by doing simple proven things in agriculture, energy and waste sectors.”

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Comments (1)

  1. David Dundas says:

    There is a danger that grouping agricultural methane emissions with those of fossil origin, will focus more attention on agricultural emissions than fossil emissions, when fossil methane emissions are far more serious than agricultural, because fossil methane adds permanently to atmospheric carbon, whereas agricultural emissions are derived from carbon dioxide absorbed recently by plants and do not add to atmospheric carbon.

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