The EU and US recently announced a joint agreement to cut global methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.
This week, they mobilised further support for the ‘Global Methane Pledge’ which will be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference this November in Glasgow.
Over 30 countries have now signed up to the pledge, including nine of the world’s top 20 methane emitters, representing about 20% of global methane emissions and almost half of the global economy, according to a joint statement from the EU and US.
However, some of the largest global methane emitters remain outside of the pledge, including China, Russia, India and Brazil.
How will it be done?
Both the EU and US refer to legislative proposals to limit methane emissions from the energy sector and landfills.
While the EU proposes to increase mitigation efforts through the deployment of carbon farming and promotion of biomethene production from agricultural waste and residues, the US focuses on expanding the ‘voluntary’ adoption of climate smart agricultural practices, by incentivising improved manure management systems, anaerobic digesters, new livestock feeds, composting and other practices, with congress considering supplemental funding to support these measures.
US climate envoy John Kerry said a critical mass of over 100 countries will be needed.
The ‘Global Methane Pledge’ is the type of commitment that is needed to reduce methane emissions. A key determinant of success will be whether those four large methane emitters, all of whom rank above the EU in scale of methane emissions, agree to sign up to the pledge.
Without a critical mass including the top emitters, the risk of carbon leakage from both energy and agrifood remains, as do the economic consequences.
Efforts by Europe to reduce methane emissions in manufacturing or agrifood would be in vain if not mirrored by the likes of China and Brazil, two of the top emitters.
Without a corresponding decrease in global consumption, production will move to the likes of China, where manufacturing is dependent on coal-fired power stations and to Brazil, in the case of beef, where the stated strategy is to increase cattle production by 24m head by 2030 at a significant environmental cost.
It’s hard to see how this approach would achieve a net reduction in methane emissions.
If methane levels in the world’s atmosphere are to be reduced, a global target, signed up to by the majority of emitters acting in a similar manner, is required.
Anything less could, in fact, exacerbate the problem and have unintended economic consequences.
Methane is likely to feature centre stage in Glasgow – the ‘Global Methane Pledge’ is one to watch. If a genuinely global approach is not agreed, world leaders will have failed.
Asking small businesses in Europe to take radical action will not solve the problem and will threaten the long-term viability of many SME’s including farmers.