• Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Biden set to go after methane emissions on day 2 of Glasgow climate change conference

ByAmeerah O'Connor

Nov 2, 2021
Biden set to go after methane emissions on day 2 of Glasgow climate change conference

GLASGOW, Scotland — President Biden will press a global initiative targeting methane emissions, which are a potent driver of global warming, at the second day of the U.N. Climate Change Conference here. 

Roughly 30 percent of methane emissions in the U.S. are attributable to the oil and gas industry, including production, pipelines and use in commercial and residential buildings. By focusing on methane emissions, Biden is seeking to “lead by example,” as he said Monday. 

To that end, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose a rule Tuesday regulating leak detection and repair for methane leaks, a policy that in part restores an Obama-era standard repealed by former President Donald Trump, but that would also extend implementation to existing oil and gas operations. A senior administration official said the new rule would cover roughly 75 percent of all methane emissions. 

In September, Biden announced that the U.S. and the European Union had both pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by the end of the decade. 

“This will not only rapidly reduce the rate of global warming, but it will also produce a very valuable side benefit like improving public health and agricultural output,” Biden said. “We’re mobilizing support to help developing countries that join and pledge to do something significant.”

President Biden speaks at the U.N. Climate Change Conference on Monday. (Evan Vucci/Pool via Reuters)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane emissions have fallen over the past two decades, but because methane is 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere, finding ways to reduce emissions could prove pivotal in keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C. Average global temperatures have already risen 1.2°C since before the Industrial Revolution. 

Methane emissions have multiple sources, including natural gas and oil drilling operations, landfills, abandoned coal mines and agriculture, and the Biden administration continues to press other nations to pledge to cap emissions where possible. 

According to a recent report by the U.N. Environment Program, targeting methane emissions is a sound strategy for attacking climate change. 

“Methane has accounted for roughly 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s,” the UNEP said on its website. 

While 70 countries had joined the U.S. at the start of the conference to take measures to address methane emissions, a senior administration official revealed that number had swelled to more than 90 nations at the end of the first day of meetings in Glasgow. 

In Scotland, the president has repeated his view that transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to renewable sources of energy will produce jobs for Americans and other countries. Regarding methane, some of those jobs could come, for instance, in detecting leaks in existing pipelines and replacing them with new infrastructure. Plugging old oil wells and coal mines is also part of the president’s plan, a senior administration official said. 

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