Sunday, November 28

Biden’s climate plan seeks to reduce methane emissions

The administration of US President Joe Biden yesterday unveiled a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming and it has a greater effect in the short term than even carbon dioxide.

The strategy was announced on the second and final day of the president’s participation in the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Biden He promised to work with the European Union and other nations to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The centerpiece of the US measures is an order from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightening the rules on methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, as indicated by one of the first executive orders from Biden.

The rule would seek for the first time a reduction in emissions in existing oil and gas wells in the country, instead of just focusing on new wells like previous measures did.

“One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade – to keep 1.5 degrees within reach – is to reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible,” said Biden, referring to the global commitment to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius per above the levels recorded at the end of the 19th century.

Methane is “one of the most powerful greenhouse gases out there,” Biden said, adding that the new US rules and global commitment “will make a big difference”, not just in the fight against climate change, but to improve health, reduce asthma and other respiratory problems.




What effect does methane have?

“CO2 tells us how much the planet is going to heat up,” synthesizes Manfredi Caltagirone, director of the new International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO).

Meeting the goal set in the global initiative would limit the rise in temperatures by 0.2 ºC by 2050 and avoid 200 thousand premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of emergency hospital admissions due to asthma and the loss of 20 million tons of crops per year.

Why is it important to reduce your emissions?

If methane emissions are reduced, we would be buying time to decarbonize societies, which would give a precious margin to act in the radical transformation of the productive system, says the expert, who has been working on this matter for years.

Methane’s influence on climate change, he adds, has been “long undervalued.”

It is estimated that a quarter of global warming is due to its impact on the atmosphere, while the concentration of that gas is increasing at the fastest rate in history.

Which sectors produce the most methane?

Fossil fuels, waste and agriculture. The IMEO, whose creation was announced this weekend at the G20 summit in Rome, has begun its work focusing precisely on fossil fuels, since that is where reducing emissions is considered relatively easier and less expensive.

Why is so little known?

“Methane has historically received less interest than carbon, so it has been less studied. We must fill the knowledge gap about where, how much and when more emissions occur ”, sums up Caltagirone.

Measuring emissions is a challenge, since it is an “odorless gas, without color, you would not see it coming out of a pipe … you have to go and look for it”, and hence the urgency of the creation of the Observatory, which depends on the Program of the United Nations for the Environment (UNEP).



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