President Joe Biden targeted planet-warming methane emissions on Tuesday from the UN climate summit, announcing strong new US regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and launching a Global Methane Pledge, in partnership with the European Union, that has been signed by around 100 countries.
At the center of Biden’s US methane strategy is a rule from the EPA that would push oil and gas companies to more accurately detect, monitor and repair methane leaks from new and existing wells, pipelines and other equipment. The agency estimates the rule would cut 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035 — more greenhouse gas than all the carbon dioxide emitted by all US passenger cars and commercial planes in 2019. Alongside EU President Ursula von der Leyen, Biden also officially launched a Global Methane Pledge that has been months in the making.
The pledge aims slash global methane emissions by nearly 30% by the end of the decade. Since September, around 100 nations joined that pledge — some, including Brazil and Kuwait, just a day before the pledge was officially launched. China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has not yet joined. “This isn’t just something we have to do to protect the environment and our future,” Biden said. “It’s an enormous opportunity to all our nations to create jobs and make meeting climate goals a core part of our global economic recovery as well.”
Von der Leyen said EU will announce its own methane regulations next month, including rules to limit venting and flaring, and track and fix leaks. “We cannot wait for 2050, we have to cut emissions fast,” von der Leyen said. “Cutting back on methane emissions is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is the lowest-hanging fruit.”
Methane is a greenhouse gas around 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term, and experts have told CNN that reducing methane leaks is among the easiest ways to slow global warming. It is the main component of natural gas, which powers close to 40% of the US electricity sector. It can enter the atmosphere through leaks from oil and natural gas wells, natural gas pipelines and the processing equipment itself. Landfills and agriculture are also a source of methane emissions. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement that the agency’s new rule will “ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country.”