With 40 countries expected to unveil their methane reduction plans at COP 27, global action on the climate-busting greenhouse gas could get a boost after stalling out under industry pressure over the last year, even after more 100 countries signed on to the Global Methane Pledge at COP 26.
Delivering the details on how countries plan to tackle methane emissions is a crucial step for dealing with global warming, said Jonathan Banks, global director of methane at the U.S. Clean Air Task Force, which tracks national pledges.
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“We need to move out of the promises and more towards the action pieces, whether it’s sectoral actions or larger actions,” he said.
The Global Methane Pledge was first announced by the United States and the European Union in September, 2021, two months before the COP 26 summit in Glasgow. The U.S. and the EU jointly promised to reduce their methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, and at least 35 more countries signed on in the weeks that followed. More than 100 countries—representing around 70% of the global economy—had signed on in the early days of the 2021 summit, and that tally has now grown to 130, according to the Global Methane Pledge website.
Methane is an exceptionally potent greenhouse gas with 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year span, though methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter amount of time. If all countries participated, the pledge would reduce average global warming by 0.2°C in the 2040s, the Guardian reported last year.
Now, the 40 countries expected to reveal plans for putting the pledge into action indicate modest progress towards the target, says Reuters. According to a U.S. official, the plans will outline national regulations, standards, and investments in methane reduction and describe how those strategies fit into their broader climate targets.
The U.S., Canada, and Vietnam are expected to be among the countries announcing plans, as are 15 other countries that have already published their strategies. Some other large methane emitters, like Brazil, are not likely to have plans drafted in time, and the world’s two biggest emitters—China and India—have not ratified the pledge.
Industry lobbying is slowing down action on methane, says InfluenceMap, a think tank that provides data on how business and finance are affecting the climate crisis. In both the U.S. and the EU, the majority of corporate engagement on methane regulation has been “unsupportive or outright oppositional,” with the fossil fuel and agriculture industries—the largest sources of methane generated by human activity—playing a major role in the pushback.
InfluenceMap’s analysis shows several European oil and gas industry players successfully lobbying against including imported fossil fuels in the EU’s methane regulation for the energy sector. In the U.S., the push against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methane regulations has been dominated by associations like the American Petroleum Institute, the American Gas Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which challenged the EPA’s legal authority to regulate methane emissions.
These industry efforts have helped maintain a wide gap between voluntary pledges and effective policies to cut methane, InfluenceMap says.
“Given the strong industry pushback against methane regulations in Europe and the U.S., it’s not particularly surprising that other jurisdictions have so far been slow to follow suit with their own policy proposals,” said Vivek Parekh, a senior analyst at InfluenceMap.
And fear of farmer protests—like those that started in the Netherlands this past summer—has made politicians wary of enforcing methane regulations on agriculture producers, says Climate Home News,.
Meanwhile, new research and climate monitoring technology continue to expose the full extent of global methane emissions. Scientists found ancient vegetation is being newly exposed from melting glacial ice and may be releasing methane at an accelerating rate, and industry processes have been identified as the source of more emissions than were previously tallied.
Just 30 fossil fuel companies account for nearly half of the planet-warming methane emitted by the energy sector, according to a new analysis by Global Energy Monitor. The top three are the National Iranian Oil Co., Russia’s Gazprom PJSC, and China Energy Investment Corp., the world’s top three highest methane emitters, reports Rigzone.
Satellite monitoring has also been a critical tool for identifying methane leaks. NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) recently located more than 50 methane “super-emitters,” some of which had previously gone unseen, including oil and gas sites in Turkmenistan and New Mexico and a waste-processing facility in Iran, says Grist.