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COP28: US plans to push for curbs on methane emission worldwide at key UN meet | Latest News India

The US plans to focus on pushing for curbs on methane emission globally in a big way at the upcoming UN climate conference to be held in Dubai, officials said in a briefing. The US, China and the United Arab Emirates will also hold a methane and other non-greenhouse gas summit during the proceedings starting on November 30.

A person walks past a ‘#COP28’ sign during a workshop focused on climate action, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (REUTERS)

Curbing methane is the fastest and cheapest way to keep average temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius, a US state department official said on Friday during the briefing. An American initiative to raise at least $200 million to tackle methane gas emissions will be exceeded at the annual climate meet, the official said, seeking anonymity.

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The US also welcomed China’s commitment to include curbs on methane in their 2035 nationally determined contribution (NDC). This is the first time China has agreed to curbs on methane emissions, which are largely contributed from the global south.

The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis, a joint statement released by the US and China on November 14, said the two nations will implement their respective national methane action plans. The US and China, two of the largest emitters, have agreed to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 in line with the intention expressed in the G20’s New Delhi Declaration issued this September, HT reported on November 16.

They have also suggested that their emissions from the power sector will peak during this decade. China is the largest emitter, followed by the US and India, based on 2019 data compiled by the World Resources Institute.

The statement, however, is silent on phasing out or phasing down fossil fuels and places too much focus on carbon removal and sequestration technologies, which are still at a nascent stage and whose effectiveness has not been fully proven, according to a brief by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

While the G20 declaration did not mention methane, it did commend countries that have NDCs with economy wide targets and targets covering all greenhouse gases.

China is the largest methane emitter, followed by the US and India. China and India have not signed the Global Methane Pledge yet, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The pledge was launched by the US and the European Union at the 2021 climate summit in Glasgow. Around 110 countries have committed to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions from human activity by at least 30% compared with 2020 levels by 2030.

The major source of methane are anthropogenic sources, especially agriculture, followed by the oil and gas sector and waste, the IEA said. Methane has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide (around 12 years compared with centuries for CO2), but it is a much more potent greenhouse gas, absorbing much more energy while it exists in the atmosphere, the agency added.

India had not signed the methane pledge mainly because of its potential repercussions for small and medium farmers and the agricultural sector.

On a question raised in the Rajya Sabha in 2021 on why India is not a signatory to the pledge, the environment ministry said that in the context of food security, India’s methane emissions are “survival” emissions.

The two predominant sources of methane emissions in India are enteric fermentation and paddy cultivation. These emissions result from the agricultural activities of small, marginal and medium farmers, whose livelihood stands threatened by the methane pledge, the ministry had said.

“Methane and CO2 are both important and if this can push oil and gas sector to reduce emissions, it is a low hanging fruit,” said Sunita Narain, director general at the Centre for Science and Environment, an advocacy group. “My concern is controlling methane from agriculture is not easy in our world as it is about survival emissions and nobody in the rich world wants to change diets necessary for reducing methane.”

Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution, and rapid and sustained reductions in such emissions are key to limiting near-term warming and improve air quality. But, CO2 has contributed more than any driver to climate change between 1750 and 2011. Atmospheric CO2 levels rose 40% between 1750 and 2011.

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Half of human-related CO2 emissions occurred only in the past 40 years, according to Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit. Wealthy nations led by the US have been majorly responsible for historic CO2 emissions that have contributed to climate change, the collective said.

“In the face of the escalating global climate crisis, the US’ call for prioritising methane emission reductions over carbon dioxide curtailments raises critical questions of fairness and feasibility. This stance not only overlooks the historical responsibility of industrialised nations for the bulk of long-lived CO2 emissions, but also disregards the unique developmental challenges faced by developing countries,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.

“In developing economies, agriculture, a major source of methane emissions, is vital for their food security and economic development. Placing excessive pressure on these countries to reduce methane emissions could jeopardise these critical sectors,” he added. “We need a comprehensive and equitable approach to climate change that addresses both methane and CO2 emissions effectively. Achieving this will require technological innovation, policy changes, and, crucially, international cooperation that respects the diverse capabilities and responsibilities of all nations.”

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