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2 November 2021

How can Cop26 elevate calls to cut methane emissions?

We frequently hear about the need to cut CO2 but other greenhouse gases are often neglected.

At Cop26 an international coalition of climate-focused non-profit organisations are collaborating on a Methane Pavilion inside the Cop26 Blue Zone. Together, they are elevating the issue of methane pollution and pushing countries to commit to concrete action to reduce methane emissions by 2030.

Below, we hear from some of the organisers about how Cop26 can push the methane agenda forwards.

Mark Brownstein, senior vice president at Environmental Defense Fund

Every fraction of a degree matters to our overheating planet. And tackling methane emissions quickly is our best chance to make the biggest difference on warming now.

Efforts to reduce CO2 alone aren’t enough. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes clear we must also reduce methane to achieve climate safety.

Methane from fossil fuels, livestock and other human activity drives more than 25 per cent of today’s warming. Cutting these emissions is the fastest way to slow the pace of global warming, even as we decarbonise the energy system.

The quickest, most cost-effective methane reductions are in the oil and gas sector. The International Energy Agency says emissions can be reduced by 70 per cent using existing technology – and more than half of those savings can be had for zero net cost.

Fortunately, countries are now taking action. The Global Methane Pledge, signed by over 30 countries and counting, is a sure sign of the increased ambition we’re all looking for from Cop26.

What’s needed now is more countries joining this essential effort, and for them to move rapidly from commitment to action.

Sarah Smith, program director, super pollutants at Clean Air Task Force

Little time is left before we start passing irreversible climate tipping points. Decarbonising our energy system is critical for slowing long-term warming, but reducing potent methane pollution is the single most effective way to curb global warming in the next 20 years and should be at the top of the agenda in Glasgow.

We applaud the US, European Union, UK and other countries stepping up to join the Global Methane Pledge at Cop26: this is a crucial start. We’ve spent the past decade working with governments developing policies to rein in these emissions, and it’s time for more countries to act quickly and at scale. Methane pollution is a global problem that demands action by countries around the world. This year alone we found preventable methane pollution plumes in all 12 countries we visited with our special infrared camera.

For the UK, Cop26 is an opportunity to showcase international climate leadership at the most important climate conference in years. Formally announcing the Global Methane Pledge with many partner countries will be an excellent first step – the Clean Air Task Force is ready to work with the UK and other early leaders to turn ambition into action through implementation of smart policy that rapidly reins in methane pollution over the next few years.

Martina Otto, acting head of the secretariat at Climate and Clean Air Coalition

At Cop26 we must take concrete steps to increase global action to reduce human-caused methane emissions. Methane emissions are increasing rapidly and are responsible for nearly half of all warming from human activities to date.

The recently announced Global Methane Pledge is a major step in the right direction and recognises the vital role methane can play to rapidly reduce the rate of warming and keep temperature rises to 1.5ºC. The pledge’s goal, to reduce methane emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030, defines the minimum that needs to happen now and allows for increased ambition going forward. The pledge represents an important new front in the fight against climate change and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) encourages all countries to join it.

Achieving the pledge will require action in all three major methaneemitting sectors: fossil fuels, agriculture and waste. The good news is that there are ready-to-go, cost-effective solutions. Countries must agree to implement available measures where they can and collaborate on innovations in sectors where new solutions are needed.

The oil and gas sector is the most promising for large and rapid reductions at low to no cost today. We must halt the construction and financing of new fossil fuel infrastructure, prevent leaks in existing infrastructure, end routine flaring and venting in the fossil fuel and waste sectors and instead capture and use that gas.

Manfredi Caltagirone, acting head of International Methane Emissions Observatory at United Nations Environment Programme

Cop26 represents a crucial opportunity to scale up global action on methane emissions. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) welcomes the leadership of the US and EU on the Global Methane Pledge, which will be formally announced at Cop26. With a target of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030, the pledge represents an important step towards addressing emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas. It is particularly important for oil and gas-producing and -consuming countries, which have the quickest and lowest-cost opportunities to reduce their climate impact in the near term.

Achieving the Global Methane Pledge and other key methane commitments will require comprehensive and reliable data to guide actions and track progress. This is the objective of UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), a key initiative mentioned in the pledge. The IMEO will take near real-time data (measurement studies, satellites, company reporting and national inventories) and integrate it to create a public data set of empirically verified methane emissions.

We know enough about methane to act today, but better data is needed to achieve the deep reductions in methane necessary to limit warming to 1.5ºC. While UNEP calls for the swift phase-out of fossil fuels, we cannot achieve our temperature goals without targeted methane action in the fossil fuel sector. Better data enables stakeholders to pursue the mitigation opportunities with the biggest impact in the near term. With its revolutionary data approach, the IMEO will provide the necessary data to further support and scale-up ambition on methane and catalyse reductions around the world.

David Waskow, director at International Climate Initiative – World Resources Institute

Countries signing on to the Global Methane Pledge at Cop26 will help drive collective action to curb methane emissions across the energy, agriculture and waste sectors – and help ensure a safer and more prosperous future for all.

Agriculture and food systems have a key role to play. In fact, more than 40 per cent of human-caused emissions come from the agriculture sector and food systems, according to the recent Global Methane Assessment (by the UNEP and CCAC). A World Resources Institute study found that improved agricultural practices can enhance crop and livestock yields and benefit farmers while also significantly cutting emissions.

Reducing food loss can also lower emissions while improving food security, especially in developing countries, while cutting food waste and minimising the amount of waste sent to landfills by separating organic matter can generate significant opportunities to reduce methane emissions, create jobs and support a circular economy.

We have the tools and solutions at hand to drive the shifts we need in all these sectors, so let’s use them.

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