With the COP26 summit underway, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden have announced a global partnership to support a pledge to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.
In the announcement of the “Global Methane Pledge”, which was made on Tuesday at the summit, the world leaders detailed their goal of cutting methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. It’s estimated that it is responsible for approximately a third of all man-made global warming.
An estimated 40% of methane is produced by natural sources, like the decay of plant material in wetlands or the seepage of gas from underground deposits.
However, a larger and growing share of emissions now comes from human activities, such as agriculture – particularly cattle production – and rubbish dumps.
Another major source of methane gas comes from producing and transporting natural gas. In the last decade, the boom of “fracking for gas” in the US has, according to researchers, resulted in a spike in methane emissions.
Worryingly, reports show that the levels of methane in the atmosphere have now reached a record high and are now two-and-a-half times higher than the pre-industrial levels.
Although the main focus of the COP26 climate summit is cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are produced by human activities like clearing forests and generating power, there has been a growing focus on methane, as this could buy extra time.
Methane gas doesn’t stick around in the atmosphere as long as CO2, so reducing methane could have a more immediate effect when it comes to tackling climate change. Methane molecules also warm the atmosphere more than CO2 molecules.
So far, over 100 countries have signed up to the pledge, which was originally proposed in September by the EU and the US. Many influential countries have agreed to follow the initiative, but a few major emitters – Russia, China, and India – have not signed up.