A Word With Dr H, Sept 22, 2021: The Global Methane Pledge

Bloomberg Green recently reported on 5 major climate issues that need to be kept alive if the Paris Agreement is to have any possibility of surviving. These goals are important to keep in mind before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

1. Every five years, countries have to submit revised plans to cut emissions, which would ideally be aligned with what scientists say is needed. Many haven’t provided new commitments yet, and some large polluters haven’t raised their green ambitions.

2. Countries need to agree on rules for carbon markets that will be governed by the UN. Those negotiations failed to deliver an outcome at the last summit in Madrid in 2019 and they are bound to be tricky in Glasgow this year.

3. Rich countries have yet to deliver on the annual $100 billion in climate finance they promised to raise to help poor countries. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has downplayed the chances of the money materializing, though U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is more optimistic.

4. COP26 President Alok Sharma wants to “consign coal to history” by getting a deal from governments to stop building new infrastructure for the dirtiest fossil fuel. Convincing the biggest producers, like Australia and Russia, and consumers such as China and India is proving extremely difficult.

5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest science report injected urgency into the race to cut methane emissions, the second-largest contributor to warming after carbon dioxide. There had been no global commitment to do so.

Then, on Friday, the U.S. and European Union launched the Global Methane Pledge that targets a voluntary 30% reduction by the end of the decade, relative to 2020 levels. Several countries declared their intention to join the pact that will be officially launched in Glasgow. The White House says so far six of the world’s top 15 polluters, covering about a fifth of global methane emissions, are on board. The full list includes Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico and the U.K.

Methane traps heat between 30-80 x more efficiently than CO2, so this can help slow down the effects of the greenhouse gases presently heating the planet. If all countries cut methane emissions significantly, it could help reduce warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. That means that all major sources of methane, oil and gas, coal, agriculture, cattle, and waste management need to be addressed. The biggest problem however is that not all countries have signed on board to this agreement, and a globally coordinated approach with countries working together is lacking. This is huge problem since even if the US were to significantly lower its carbon footprint by phasing out coal, electrifying the transportation sector and increasing the use of WWS (wind, water, solar) to become carbon neutral, other countries need to follow suit, and to date, we lack a synchronized approach. What is the solution? I believe we need a legal definition of Ecocide put in place by the international courts to hold world leaders responsible for their stewardship of the planet with a change in our economic structures to a more sustainable system like donut economics. Environmental ethics has been lacking to date, and it is only a deep concern for the wellbeing of present and future generations and all life on the planet will allow us to move ahead in a positive direction. We have scientific solutions, but without a basic change in our philosophies, integrating compassion and environmental justice into every action world leaders take, the world will continue down our present path of environmental destruction.