Biden Sets Sights on Methane Reduction Plan at Global Climate Summit

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a sweeping U.S. plan to reduce methane emissions, as leaders from more than 100 nations met for a second day of talks at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Methane, the simplest hydrocarbon, is a gas that contributes directly to global warming, and is produced in the transport and production of coal, natural gas and oil. Livestock, landfills and agricultural practices also produce large amounts of the gas.

On Tuesday, the administration unveiled a plan that pulls together different sectors of the U.S. government — including the departments of energy, agriculture, transportation, housing and the interior –to cut emissions. This plan should bring the United States in line with a Global Methane Pledge, in which the world’s largest emitters aim to reduce overall methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

“Cutting methane emissions is essential to keep global warming from breaching 1.5 C,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics for the World Resources Institute. “This pledge from over 90 countries to cut methane emissions by at least 30% over the coming decade sets a strong floor in terms of the ambition we need globally. Strong and rapid action to cut methane emissions offers a range of benefits, from limiting near-term warming and curbing air pollution to improved food security and better public health.”

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These plans follow Monday’s announcements of new U.S. climate commitments that build on previous global agreements: the unveiling of plans for a $3 billion President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) to tackle climate awareness, financing and adaptation efforts, which are part of Biden’s broader climate financing package. But it is not certain the U.S. leader can deliver on that promise, which still needs congressional approval.

Additionally, Biden touted a raft of domestically focused legislation that aims to shore up American infrastructure while also cutting greenhouse gas pollution by well over one gigaton by 2030.

That legislation has occupied the U.S. Congress for months, with members of the legislative body negotiating fiercely throughout — but ultimately failing to bring the matter to a vote before Biden left for the summit last week.

The U.S. has faltered on its own climate commitments, with former President Donald Trump announcing in 2017 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. That took effect November 2020, but Biden rejoined the deal on his first day in office.

The president’s critics note that some of his administration’s climate commitments are not as large as those promised by other developed nations. 

China opts out

On Monday, China’s leader announced his nation’s plans to address climate change — a plan that critics said fell short of making any new commitments to reduce emissions.

“Specific implementation plans for key areas such as energy, industry, construction and transport, and for key sectors such as coal, electricity, iron and steel, and cement will be rolled out, coupled with supporting measures in terms of science and technology, carbon sink, fiscal and taxation, and financial incentives,” President Xi Jinping said in a written address to the climate summit Monday, according to a copy posted by China’s Xinhua news agency.

Xi called on developed nations to both “do more themselves” and support developing nations in their climate efforts.

This year’s summit builds on a legally binding agreement that 196 parties, including the U.S., Russia and China, signed six years ago in Paris. The international treaty commits those countries to embark on emissions cuts that aim to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels.

(VOA’s Chris Hannas contributed to this story.)

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