Not anymore. Methane emissions are set to become a defining issue on Capitol Hill, at the Environmental Protection Agency and at an upcoming United Nations climate summit in Scotland next week.
The details: Democrats are working to salvage a fee on methane emissions in their tax-and-spending package after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) voiced opposition to the proposal, The Climate 202 reported Tuesday.
- Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) is still seeking a compromise with Manchin on the methane fee, a Senate Democratic aide confirmed to us.
- Separately, the EPA is expected to unveil a new rule targeting leaks of methane from oil and gas operations after both chambers of Congress voted to overturn a rollback by the Trump administration.
- And countries will face pressure at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, to join the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
Carbon dioxide can linger in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, while methane typically breaks down after about a decade. But in the short term, methane is about 80 times more effective at trapping heat.
“The focus on methane as a greenhouse gas is long overdue,” Maria Pastukhova, a senior policy adviser at E3G, a European think tank, told The Climate 202. “The time span between action and the results is much longer for carbon dioxide.”
The forthcoming EPA rules
EPA Administrator Michael Regan is expected to unveil the methane standards for new and existing oil and gas operations, including wells and pipelines, as soon as this week.
- Regan previously told The Climate 202 that the standards would be “very aggressive” so that the energy industry “understands what the rules of engagement are and what the expectations are.”
- For the first time, the rules will apply to oil and gas infrastructure built or modified before 2015, which is responsible for the vast majority of the energy industry’s methane emissions.
- At the state level, both Colorado and New Mexico have already rolled out regulations targeting methane pollution.
The new federal rules are going to be a “huge step forward,” Sarah Smith, director of the Super Pollutants Program at the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group, told The Climate 202.
“This is vital because the U.S. is the world’s largest oil and gas producer,” Smith said. “And so having strong standards to reduce methane pollution could take a big bite out of near-term warming and send a signal to countries around the world that they should follow our lead.”
Methane at COP26
On the international stage, the United States and the European Union will be pushing other countries to join the Global Methane Pledge at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow starting next week.
- Two dozen additional countries signed up for the pledge earlier this month, including Pakistan, Nigeria and Canada, The Post’s William Booth and Steven Mufson reported.
- The nations that have joined are responsible for approximately 31 percent of global methane emissions, according to an analysis from the Clean Air Task Force.
- But with less than a week until COP26, some of the world’s largest methane emitters — including Russia, China, India and Brazil — have still not signed on.
The pledge is “right now a political signal showing the willingness of many countries to act on methane,” said Pastukhova, the policy adviser at E3G. “But the next step is turning it into a continuous political commitment and getting other countries on board.”
On the Hill
Invoking Henry Ford, Manchin questioned electric-vehicle infrastructure spending
Manchin voiced concern about electric vehicle infrastructure funding in Democrats’ social spending bill during an Economic Club of Washington event on Tuesday, according to our Post colleague Mike DeBonis, who attended the in-person event.
“They talked about electric vehicles spending, $80 million building charging stations,” Manchin said. “I said I’m having a hard time with that. I don’t remember the federal government building filling stations when Henry Ford invented the Model T.”
As written, the House version of the budget reconciliation package would provide $13.5 billion for installing public EV charging stations and accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles, according to a House Energy and Commerce Committee fact sheet. The bipartisan infrastructure bill would authorize an additional $7.5 billion for EV chargers.
Separately, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told reporters Tuesday that a carbon border adjustment would not be included in the package. “Not only would it be hard for us to do in reconciliation, there’s a very logical path for the administration to do it itself,” he said.
In a follow-up statement to The Climate 202, Whitehouse added: “A border adjustment depends on a denominator — a carbon price makes a good one. A considerable number of senators are fighting for a price on carbon to provide that denominator ahead of Glasgow, and we strongly support border adjustment. The Biden Administration has broad tariff authority and may be able to act later through executive action.”
Meanwhile, White House officials are privately telling lawmakers that the climate provisions in the package are “mostly settled” and are likely to total more than $500 billion, Axios’s Alayna Treene and other news outlets reported.
Countdown to COP26
Drastic emissions cuts are needed to meet global climate targets
The report estimates that new climate commitments from about 120 countries could result in a 7.5 percent cut to emissions by 2030. But even if those commitments are fully implemented, emissions would still need to fall about seven times that fast if the world hopes to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
A majority of Americans are worried about climate change
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say global warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from a little under half of people in 2018, according to a new poll from AP-NORC and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. A majority (55 percent) also want Congress to pass a bill to ensure more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy.
Putin says forests will help Russia become carbon neutral
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this month that the country would "strive" for carbon neutrality by 2060. But his claim that Russia's forests would neutralize "several billion [metric] tons" of carbon dioxide emissions was met with skepticism by climate scientists, who noted that vast swaths of Siberian forests have burned during summer wildfires, The Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina report.
Australia adopted a 2050 net zero target
The move comes in response to growing international and domestic pressure. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, defied calls to set a more ambitious target for emissions reductions by 2030, The Post’s Michael E. Miller reports. Australia is one of the world’s top per capita emitters and a major fossil fuel exporter.
Activist dubbed 'Green Jesus' will be Canada's climate chief
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named a former Greenpeace activist known as "Green Jesus" as environment and climate change minister on Tuesday, angering some residents of the country's oil-rich west, The Post's Rachel Pannett reports.
The appointment of Steven Guilbeault, which comes days before the start of COP26, "suggests Trudeau — who had previously offered support for the country’s oil and gas industry while also implementing measures such as a carbon tax — is coming down firmly on the side of climate action," Pannett writes.
Biden rescinds Trump-era regulations on endangered species
The Biden administration proposed rolling back a regulation issued in 2020 that limited what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service could designate as “critical habitat” for the protection of endangered species. President Biden has unwound dozens of environmental policies approved during the Trump administration and added new rules of his own, as documented by The Post’s environmental action tracker.
Insurance companies are pulling out of coal projects
Activists are pressuring insurance groups to cut back their insurance and investments in coal projects, and they’re getting traction.
“More than 30 insurance companies have announced restrictions on underwriting coal projects, making it difficult for major coal operators to line up bank financing and investment for mines, transportation and power plants. Without insurance, those investments could seem too risky,” The Post’s Steven Mufson reports.
Much of the movement is coming from European insurers. Major players in the United States, including AIG, Berkshire Hathaway and Travelers have not limited or ended their work with coal projects.
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