What is the Global Methane Pledge?
The GMP is a collective plan to reduce the impact of methane, the second most harmful greenhouse gas.
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What is the Global Methane Pledge? Steps to climate action

The Global Methane Pledge (GMP) commits to tackling the climate crisis by reducing methane emissions.

It was launched at COP26 in November 2021 and led by the United States and the European Union. The pledge strives to cut methane emissions by at least 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030.

The pledge seeks to

  • Catalyse action
  • Promote technical cooperation
  • Strengthen support for existing methane reduction initiatives.
  • Increase international collaboration

This collective effort highlights the role of methane mitigation in climate change commitments. It also emphasises the importance of joint international efforts to achieve tangible progress.

An image depicting the concept of a global methane pledge. The visual shows a globe icon with a person sitting in front of it, holding a flag in their hand to symbolize their pledge. The image highlights the global nature of the pledge, suggesting that people from around the world are coming together to address the issue of methane emissions. The use of the flag suggests that this is a personal commitment, and that individuals can play a role in reducing methane emissions.

Understanding methane emissions and their role in global warming

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, responsible for 30% of global warming since the pre-industrial era. It is between 25 and 32 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (EPA/Nisbet et al.).

Methane gets less attention than carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is less common in the atmosphere and only lasts about a decade, while CO2 lasts centuries. Yet, it does its damage quickly and fades away, while CO2 consistently traps heat over time.

The Paris Agreement has set a goal to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Reducing methane emissions can significantly and rapidly impact achieving that goal.

An image illustrating the importance of the global methane pledge. The visual shows a scale with a globe filled with greenery on one side, and a factory emitting harmful gases on the other side. The image highlights the balance between environmental protection and industrial development, suggesting that the global methane pledge is a crucial step in finding a sustainable balance between the two. The image also highlights the potential benefits of reducing methane emissions, such as preserving the natural environment and improving public health.

Sources of methane emissions

Methane emissions originate from various natural and human-driven activities:

  • Natural sources. Wetlands, termites, oceans, permafrost, and wildfires.
  • Anthropogenic sources. Agriculture, waste management, energy, and biomass burning.

Methane from human activity falls into three main sectors.

  • Agriculture (livestock production and rice cultivation).
  • Fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal mining)
  • Waste management (landfills and wastewater treatment)

Environmental impact

Methane emissions impact the environment, climate, and human health.

  • Climate change. The heat-trapping capacity of methane contributes significantly to global warming and climate change.
  • Air quality. Methane in the atmosphere reacts with other chemicals to form ozone. At ground level, ozone is a harmful air pollutant affecting human health and crop growth.
  • Public health. Poor air quality can lead to respiratory, heart-related, and other health issues. These issues are more pronounced in vulnerable groups like children and the elderly.
An image depicting the environmental impact of methane emissions. The visual shows a globe with a melting ice cap, symbolizing the negative impact of methane emissions on the environment. The image highlights the link between greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, and global warming. The melting ice cap also suggests that the impact of methane emissions is not limited to a particular region or population, but rather has global implications. The image serves to emphasize the urgent need for action to address methane emissions and mitigate their harmful effects on the planet.

The role of the GMP in reducing methane emissions

Goals and objectives

A primary goal is to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by the end of this decade.

This target is based on findings from the Global Methane Assessment. The research found that human-caused methane emissions can be reduced by up to 45% this decade. This could potentially avert nearly 0.3°C of global warming.

The Pledge also highlights developing countries’ need for technical and financial assistance. According to the European Commission, philanthropies have committed $328 million to support the scale-up of methane mitigation ambitions worldwide.

Leading countries and participants

The United States and the European Union lead the Global Methane Pledge. 103 other countries have signed it. Though notably, major emitting economies like China, India and Russia have not signed.

As per the Joint US-EU Press Release, the signatories share a common goal. Reducing methane emissions and meeting climate change targets.

The collaboration seeks to improve

  • Strategies
  • Policies
  • Funding

Needed to reduce methane emissions on a global scale.

Implementation

Mitigation technologies

Several technologies are crucial to methane emission reduction initiatives.

  • Biogas capture and utilisation. Capturing biogas from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and agriculture can reduce methane emissions. It can then be used as a renewable energy source, replacing fossil fuels in heating or electricity generation.
  • Improved waste management. Developing more efficient waste management practices to reduce methane emissions from landfills. These include recycling and composting.
  • Leak detection and repair. Reducing methane leaks in the oil and gas industry is crucial. This can be achieved through regular monitoring, detection, and repairing pipelines, compressors, and other facilities.

Policy and financial support

Policy and financial support can facilitate methane mitigation technologies and practices. Governments, international organisations, and private sector institutions play a crucial role.

  • Regulation and incentives. Governments can implement rules and financial incentives to encourage methane reduction technologies and practices. Examples include emission-targeted regulation, tax incentives, and subsidies.
  • Capacity building and knowledge sharing. Technical assistance and knowledge sharing between countries can promote best practices. Organisations like the UN Environment Programme’s International Methane Emissions Observatory and the International Energy Agency provide support in this area.
  • Public-private partnerships. Collaborative efforts between governments, businesses, and research institutions are needed. This can scale up the deployment of methane reduction technologies and drive innovation.
  • Investment in research and development. Providing funding for new technologies and practices can spark methane emissions reduction efforts.

Progress and challenges

Despite its importance, the Pledge faces several progress-related and implementation challenges.

Monitoring and reporting

The key to success is the ability to monitor and report progress effectively. The Pledge’s text states that regular reviews will occur through annual ministerial meetings. However, the Pledge is non-binding, which makes it hard to ensure nations are held accountable.

Lack of innovation and expertise in key sectors

Some key methane-emitting sectors, such as agriculture and waste, may need more innovation and understanding to reduce emissions.

Lack of international buy-in

Another challenge is that the Pledge only includes some major methane emitters. This could limit the effectiveness. Additional measures may be needed to ensure all relevant countries and sectors actively work towards the shared goal.

Looking forward

Potential developments

The pledge has brought together countries representing 45% of global methane emissions. As more countries join, we could witness enhancements in

  • International cooperation
  • Knowledge-sharing
  • Advancement in technology and policy solutions to tackle methane emissions

Global impact and significance

According to the International Energy Agency, achieving a 30% reduction in global methane emissions by 2030 could prevent up to 0.3°C of warming by 2040. This would significantly contribute to limiting global temperature increase to well below 2°C or even 1.5°C as set by the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore, reducing methane emissions will improve public health by reducing air pollution. The United Nations Environment Programme highlights that such reductions by 2040 could prevent an estimated

  • 255,000 premature deaths
  • 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually

Lastly, reducing methane in agriculture and waste can improve economic and ecological efficiency. Companies and farmers who innovate can benefit financially and environmentally in the long run.

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Author

Rob Boyle
Rob built Emission Index to collect and share data, trends and opportunities to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and expedite the energy transition.

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