103 countries have committed to cutting methane emissions by 30% this decade, the gas responsible for 25% of global warming.
The United States and the European Union have co-sponsored a treaty aimed at fighting global warming.
Every political leader who attended the Glasgow climate conference, as well as those who did not, is betting a significant amount of his or her reputation on the next two weeks. But there are two of them in particular who want COP26 to be a success: Joe Biden and Boris Johnson. The former to show that the US is once again a serious actor in the fight against climate change. And the British Prime Minister, in order to demonstrate that the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era is a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. The two plan to create headlines on Tuesday, with the meeting’s initial developments taking place in the Scottish city.
Biden, together with the European Union, is a co-sponsor of an international initiative to reduce methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is often overlooked in discussions about carbon dioxide emissions. And Johnson, who is chairing this year’s COP26, hoped to take the lead on the second day of the summit by announcing a major international deforestation agreement: an alliance of governments, investors, companies, environmental organizations, and local communities to halt global forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
Both pacts aren’t legally enforceable and aren’t part of official UN talks. These professions of will are typically just that, but at a conference where no significant progress in the fight against global warming is expected, these concrete initiatives might be hailed as modest successes.
By 2030, the methane agreement plans for a 30% reduction in methane emissions. According to the US Administration in Glasgow, the treaty has been signed by 103 countries. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has long been overshadowed by carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary cause of global warming, but real pledges against it are being championed in the international climate fight. Methane is responsible for 25% of the increase in global temperature observed on the planet since the pre-industrial era, according to the latest report of the IPCC – the worldwide panel of experts charged with building the scientific foundations on climate change. And during the past two centuries, its levels have been continuously growing.
According to the US State Department, the 103 nations that have signed this pact account for 70% of global GDP and are responsible for nearly half of anthropogenic methane emissions. This methane promise was initially backed by 31 countries, who indicated their desire to join in September. There are currently around 100, according to figures released by the US Administration on Tuesday. Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom are also members, in addition to the United States and the European Union. Three large emitters, however, stand out among the absentees: China, Russia, and India.
President Biden stated during the official introduction of the deal at the Glasgow conference that controlling these emissions is “one of the most significant things” that can be done during this critical decade to keep global warming below catastrophic levels. At the same event, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “It is one of the gases that we can cut quickly.” The United States and the European Union announced this partnership in October with the goal of reducing emissions by 30% by the end of the decade compared to 2020 levels.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was another leader that took part in the announcement of this pledge to combat methane emissions. “The good news is that the technology exists,” he added of the measures needed to reduce methane emissions, which are often connected to leaks in oil, gas, and coal mines.
Origins in humans
According to a recent research by the International Energy Agency (IEA), natural sources account for 40% of global methane emissions, primarily from wetlands. The remaining 60% is attributed to human activities: over 25% comes from agriculture and animals, another 21% comes from fossil fuels, and nearly 12% comes from garbage. Fossil fuels are the easiest area to act in right now. Experts point to methane leaks from the oil, gas, and coal industries in particular.
The proponents of this agreement predict that a 30% decrease in global emissions by 2030 will limit warming to 0.2 degrees Celsius by mid-century. This could help to meet the increasingly difficult objective of limiting global temperature rises at 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels – the planet is now at 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore, as the European Commission has stated, a 30% decrease in worldwide methane emissions would avoid 200,000 premature deaths each year due to respiratory ailments, according to the United Nations environmental agency.
In the meantime, the White House intends to take actual steps to reduce emissions on its own soil. Barack Obama’s team devised precise strategies to combat methane emissions, but when Republican Donald Trump took office, he repealed the program, as well as most environmental regulations aimed at limiting global warming. Under Trump’s leadership, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement. Now, as part of COP26, Biden is attempting to make up for lost time by bolstering the worldwide climate fight with accords like the one on methane. “It’s a big opportunity for all nations,” Biden said of the jobs that may be produced in conjunction with the reduction of such emissions.
The program that the US is presently planning to execute will have an impact on oil and gas operations. This emissions reduction plan, which would involve the control of 300,000 oil and gas wells across the country, will be piloted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The fact that Brazil, along with countries like Canada, Russia, Norway, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, formed the anti-deforestation coalition, accounts for a big portion of its success. More than 100 countries have signed the accord, and at least 30 financial institutions have stated their intention to stop investing in environmentally destructive operations by 2025.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro appeared at the summit for the first time, albeit by video, to express their support for the deal. “Our country contains 20% of the world’s woods, and I am convinced that forest protection is a critical component of the fight against climate change,” Putin added. Bolsonaro, whose trustworthiness has been questioned by several environmental organizations, has said, “I call on all countries to assist us save all forests.”
Johnson’s communications team has already referred to the partnership as a “transcendental pact,” eager to add accomplishments as soon as possible in an international meeting that has begun in the shadow of skepticism. Experts, on the other hand, have reacted to the news with a combination of caution and hope. One of the primary sources of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is global deforestation. “When we look back, this will be the moment when we declare that the trend has started to turn around,” said Justin Adams, executive director of the Tropical Forest Alliance.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, has expressed serious reservations about a deal that it describes as “a green light for another decade of forest devastation.” “There is a very good reason why Bolsonaro felt comfortable signing this new deal,” Carolina Pasquali, executive director of Greenpeace Brazil, said in a statement. It is non-binding and allows for another decade of forest degradation. Meanwhile, the Amazon is already on the verge of collapse and will not be able to withstand any more years of destruction.”
The so-called New York proclamation, which includes a pledge to halve forest loss by 2020, was already signed in 2014. However, according to Greenpeace, far from being met, the rate of deforestation has grown in recent years. “There is little possibility that he will comply by this wholly voluntary agreement and push measures that will put Brazil on the path to reaching the new pledge,” the NGO said, citing Bolsonaro’s record.