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Richard Trinder
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@richardtrinder
7:00 AM 3rd November 2021
frontpage

COP26: Why All The Fuss about Methane?

Photo by Marcin Jozwiak
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak
The Global Methane Pledge announced today by the EU and the US aims to limit Methane emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels and has been signed, so far, by over 80 countries.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen set the scene at today's COP26 with the simple, direct, and heart felt statement: "We have to cut emissions fast.". She said cutting Methane was "one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming".

For many it is considered to be 'low hanging fruit' in that relatively small changes in Methane emission can have a huge impact on global warming. Methane is better than CO2 at letting heat from the Sun pass through to the Earth and then trapping it once inside; over a 20 year period Methane is over seventy times better. 'Better' is perhaps the wrong word in this context.

US President Joe Biden, working in close concert with the EU, echoed Ursula von der Leyen's words, calling Methane "one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is".

Sources close to home

One of the biggest sources of Methane is from leakage during the production, and distribution of fracked gas in the US. So this problem is right in Biden's back yard and he clearly understands how hot this political potato is about to become.

However controlling Methane emissions offers some significant and immediate benefits, with the potential to avoid 0.3C of the projected rise in temperatures by 2040. And when we are teetering between 1.09C and 1.5C over the next couple of decades this is clearly an important contribution.

In case this all sounds like a walk in the park we should recognise that there are trip-hazards ahead. Russia, China and India, all major emitters of Methane, are not part of the pledge. And all these agreements are voluntary - nobody will chase you if you fail, not even if you don't try. Nonetheless, Methane emissions are easy to spot using satellite observations and naming and shaming is bound to be part of an intensive follow-up between COP26 and COP27.