Methane escapes from coal, oil, and natural gas. Methane concentrations are increasing faster than carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. According to the World Meteorological Organization, it is now 2.5 times higher than the pre-Industrial Revolution value. At the same time, methane is often reduced more cost-effectively than carbon dioxide.
The European Union and the United States launched an international agreement at the climate conference two years ago, the Global Methane Pledge (GMP), which is now joined by more than 150 countries – which emit more than half of all man-made methane. However, China, India and Russia are missing. There will be a meeting of the Methane Alliance in Dubai earlier in the week, and new initiatives are expected.
Member countries of the Methane Treaty aim to reduce emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 to 2030. If nothing is done, they could rise to 13 percent globally, according to the initiative. The deal has the potential to limit global warming to at least 0.2 degrees by 2050. But limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees isn’t enough, according to Bill Hare, president of Climate Analytics. This requires a global reduction of 34 percent by 2030.
The central government warned in Dubai on Sunday about the particularly aggressive greenhouse gas methane. Stephen Wenzel, Parliamentary Secretary of State for the Union Climate Ministry, said if emissions could be reduced quickly globally, the fight against global warming would be faster. Satellites can now be used to pinpoint the location of oil rigs or leaks in gas fields.
Dirk Messner, head of the federal environmental agency, said in Dubai that the gas is almost 30 times more aggressive than carbon dioxide, which has been the focus for decades. He called for global rules in the fight against methane, especially in oil and gas countries. This should be coupled with monitoring and testing.
China recently presented its own 14-page methane reduction plan. It lacks concrete statistics or data for overall reductions and contains many individual, often unspecified specifications. For example, methane from coal mines should be used more.
The EU parliament and countries agreed in mid-November to tighten rules for the oil, gas and coal industries – with clear timetables. Here too, oil and gas plant operators must constantly find and repair large methane leaks. Methane flaring is banned in many places.
“Overall, the Global Methane Pledge has managed to draw attention to the issue,” says Thea Uhlich, climate officer at Germanwatch. In fact, the United States and the European Union mention a number of new international initiatives and funding, including private foundations, in a joint letter. 50 countries are working on developing national methane plans.
“Ultimately, what counts is whether GMP actually leads to methane reductions that would not occur without it,” says Uhlich. There was still a lack of data to assess success.
According to the European Environment Agency, the EU has already reduced methane emissions by 36 percent between 1990 and 2020. This happened primarily in the energy and waste sectors. According to the Federal Environment Agency (Uba), Germany will reduce its methane emissions by 66 percent between 1990 and 2022. The end of hard coal production is one factor, but not the only one: mine gas is being extracted and used, and less gas is escaping from the landfill. According to Upa, the key here is the expansion of the circular economy, for example waste segregation and the use of biogas.
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