Biden unveils pledge to slash global methane emissions by 30%

US-led alliance includes 90 countries but China, India and Russia have not joined the methane pact

US president Joe Biden has unveiled a multinational plan to control methane, regarded by the administration as the single most potent way to combat the climate crisis in the short term.

Leading an alliance of 90 countries, including for the first time Brazil, on Tuesday Biden set out new regulatory measures to limit global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade.

The alliance includes two-thirds of the global economy and half of the top 30 major methane emitter countries. China, India and Russia have not joined the pact known as the Global Methane Pledge.

The pledge was first announced in September but Biden’s officials have since been working hard to increase the number of signatories and the momentum behind the pledge. The detailed US proposals may prove to be one of the lasting successes of the Cop26 climate conference being held in Glasgow.

Many of the regulatory measures do not require Congressional approval, and so give Biden some short-term effective measures to which he can point. The oil and gas industry is reckoned to be responsible for 30% of methane emissions in the US.

A new Environment Protection Agency rule that regulates leak detection and repair in the oil industry repealed by Donald Trump will be restored and for the first time applied to new operations in gas, including regulation of natural gas produced as a by-product of oil production that is vented or flared.

The Biden team hopes that 75% of all methane emissions will be covered.

The other major sources of methane in the US are municipal landfills, thousands of abandoned oil wells and coal mines, and finally agriculture.

New rules, due to be phased in, will require companies to oversee and inspect 3m miles (4.8m km) of pipelines, including 300,000 miles (480,000km) of transmission lines and 2.3m miles (3.7m km) of lines inside cities. In Boston alone it is estimated that 49,000 tonnes of methane leak each year.

The administration says it is working in concert with the EU and is using a mix of incentives, new disclosure rules and regulation. It stressed that the plan will create thousands of unionised jobs.


Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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