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U.S. and E.U. line up global pledges to slash emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas

Some of the world’s biggest emitters have still not signed on

A sign warns of methane gas near a well in the Pilliga forest in Narrabri, Australia. (Bloomberg News)
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Two dozen additional countries have signed up for a global methane pledge, vowing to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas by 30 percent by 2030.

At a virtual ministerial meeting hosted in Brussels on Monday, the European Union’s top climate negotiator, Frans Timmermans, and the White House special envoy for climate, John F. Kerry, announced the new signatories and stressed the importance of slashing methane.

The pledge is now backed by nine of the world’s top 20 methane-emitting countries, accounting for 60 percent of the global economy, the organizers said.

But with just a month left before a crucial climate summit to be held in Scotland, some of the world’s biggest methane emitters — including Russia, China, India and Brazil — have still not signed on.

Three nations named Monday — France, Germany and the small Malta — were already committed to the pledge, thanks to their membership in the E.U. bloc. Among the significant new additions are Pakistan, Nigeria, Canada and the Philippines. Some of the other countries mentioned — including Costa Rica, Jordan and Liberia — have only a small role in the global methane emissions picture.

Still, U.S. and E.U. negotiators hailed the progress. In all, 34 countries have now signed the pledge.

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The call to reduce methane emissions by 2030 was pushed by President Biden at the White House last month. Methane is not as long-lived in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, but it is more than 80 times as powerful over a 20-year period. The heat-trapping gas is produced by coal mining, the oil and gas industry, and agriculture and livestock.

Scientists forecast that future global warming could be reduced by 0.2 Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) by the 2040s if countries take up the challenge to cut methane now. Timmermans and Kerry called the bid “the single most effective strategy to reduce near-term global warming and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.”

“If the world is serious about keeping the climate safe, it’s got to get serious about cutting methane,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The Methane Pledge is a good start.”

The new 24 supporters are Canada, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Federated States of Micronesia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malta, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sweden and Togo.

These countries join the earlier signatories, including the United States, the European Union, Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico and Britain.

Kerry said he hopes to have more than 100 countries pledged to cut methane by the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next month. In addition to the new methane pledges by nations, more than 20 philanthropies announced plans Monday to spend $200 million to support implementation of the global methane goals.

“Momentum is building for a methane moment at Glasgow,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Cutting methane pollution is the fastest opportunity we have to help avert our most acute climate risks, including crop loss, wildfires, extreme weather and rising sea levels.”