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POLICY

US, EU Push for 30% Methane Cut

Copyright © 2021 Energy Intelligence Group
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Washington and Brussels are pushing for steep cuts in methane emissions in a bid to arrest the pace of global warming.

In a proposal outlined at a virtual meeting of leaders from countries making up 80% of the global economy, the US and the EU on Friday put forward what they’re calling the “Global Methane Pledge” to reduce methane emissions by 30% over 2020 levels. Making those emissions cuts will “rapidly reduce the rate of global warming,” US President Joe Biden told the meeting.

The Biden administration has proposed a federal program to employ oil and gas workers plugging leaks and capping abandoned wells. The US Department of the Interior also sent its proposals for regulating methane emissions on federal lands to the White House last week, but they have not yet been published.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have advanced a plan to charge companies a fee for methane leaks, a proposal staunchly opposed by industry.

A recent Resources for the Future analysis found substantial leak reductions at prices of $1,000-$1,500 per ton of methane, lower than the level laid out in the Senate proposal. “Larger fees generate more reductions in methane leakage, but they do so with diminishing returns,” the paper found.

A 2020 European Commission proposal on methane reductions calls for compulsory methane leak measurements and reporting; leak detection and repair; and a possible elimination of routine venting and flaring in the energy sector. Commission adoption of proposed methane rules is currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

The cooperation on methane emissions reductions between Europe and the US is a marked shift from a year ago, when concerns over uncontrolled methane in the US came to a head. Concerns over uncontrolled venting and flaring were partly to blame for French utility Engie’s decision to walk away from LNG supply talks with the US’ NextDecade.

Sounding the Alarm

US officials have been traveling the globe in recent weeks in an attempt to shore up support for more aggressive emissions reductions targets ahead of UN climate talks scheduled for November. Friday’s meeting of the Major Economies Forum included representatives from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, the European Commission and Council, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the UK, the UN, Russia, China, India and Germany.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday warned current proposals aren’t adequate to keep global warming within the 1.5º-2ºC target set by the Paris Agreement.

Biden has also been trying to focus the lens on the effects of climate change at home as well, traveling to several states beset by floods and fires. “Without adequate commitments from every nation in this room, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5º slips through our hands,” Biden said. “And that’s a disaster."

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