While the most recent United Nations climate change conference may not have produced the kind of headline-grabbing unified stance against climate change as COP21 where the Paris Agreement was ratified, COP26’s achievement on methane could turn out to be a significant turning point for the battle against global warming.
In Glasgow leaders of more than 100 countries signed a pledge to reduce their methane emissions 30 percent by 2030, a milestone that’s been lauded as an important stepping stone towards meeting climate warming goals under the Paris Agreement. This is estimated to eliminate over 0.2˚C warming by 2050.
Participants joining the pledge have agreed to take voluntary actions to contribute to this collective effort.
Described by the President of the European Commissions Ursula von der Leyen as “the lowest hanging fruit in our battle to slow down climate change”, methane gas is estimated to be 25 times more damaging for the environment than CO2 because of its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere.
EU Commission President von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden – leaders of the world’s third and sixth largest methane emitters, respectively – announced the pledge in September 2021. The world leaders then used the forum to gather support of other major emitters accounting for more than 40% of global emissions of methane based on Environmental Protection Agency emissions estimates. Several large emitters including China, Russia and India have not yet joined the Global Methane Pledge.
Methane is described as a powerful and short-lived climate pollutant which drives climate change and harms human and ecosystem health by contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone.
Over the past decade, global methane emissions have risen at a rate faster than at any time in the last 30 years.
While methane has both human and natural sources, recent increases are attributed to activity in three anthropogenic sectors, namely fossils fuels, waste and agriculture. Landfills and waste, alongside oil and gas production and agriculture are the biggest contributors to methane in the atmosphere.
Reducing methane presents the greatest opportunity available today to simultaneously address our interlinked planetary crises and make peace with nature, Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme noted in the UN’s Global Methane Assessment.
Humanity is facing three systemic and escalating planetary crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis, Ms Andersen highlighted.
These crises are not independent but linked and often stem from the same sources and unsustainable models of consumption and production, she noted. These links provide an opportunity to identify and deploy solutions which deliver multiple-benefits and the ambitious emissions reductions needed to overcome these crises.
Current methane concentrations are well above those needed to achieve climate reduction targets.
According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Global Warming of 1.5° C report, Paris Agreement targets cannot be achieved without immediately reducing methane along with carbon dioxide and all other climate forcing emissions.
Energy from waste facilities will be one of the leading infrastructure solutions to assist in the removal of methane in line with global targets, and our infrastructure team are focused on capitalising on these opportunities.