COP27: Civil society respond to Global Methane Pledge

20% of all methane emissions primarily comes from throwing organic waste into landfills, according to an expert. File picture: Darren Whiteside/Reuteres

20% of all methane emissions primarily comes from throwing organic waste into landfills, according to an expert. File picture: Darren Whiteside/Reuteres

Published Dec 6, 2022


Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas that accounts for about 50% of the net rise in global average temperatures since the pre-industrial era.

The Global Methane Pledge explains that achieving near-term gains in reducing methane in the atmosphere is possible if we are able to develop more sustainable ways of producing energy, food and how we handle our waste.

Achieving a reduction in methane emissions is regarded as the single most effective strategy to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5˚C within reach while yielding additional benefits including improving public health and agricultural productivity.

US President Joe Biden and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting last year that the United States and the European Union are inviting countries to support the Global Methane Pledge which was launched at COP26 in November 2021 in Glasgow.

According to a GAIA press release, participants joining the pledge agree to take voluntary actions to contribute to a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030, which could eliminate over 0.2˚C warming by 2050.

The pledge is a global, not a national reduction target. Participating countries also commit to moving towards using the highest tier IPCC good practice inventory methodologies, as well as working to continuously improve the accuracy, transparency, consistency, comparability, and completeness of national greenhouse gas inventory reporting under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, and to provide greater transparency in key sectors.

This year, at the global methane pledge ministerial meeting, it was announced that 150 countries have signed the pledge.

It also announced that 95% of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) include methane or will do so by the next revision and that 50 countries have developed national methane plans or plan to do so.

These 50 countries include Brazil, Vietnam, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the US and the EU – which represents 27 Member States – that have published plans in the last year. A further 10 countries – Belgium, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Malta, and Togo have committed to publishing plans by COP28. The UK has published a methane memorandum.

The Ministerial also launched a waste and agriculture pathway to tackle emissions in these sectors. The agriculture pathway is largely focused on improving the productivity and efficiency of livestock production which will not impact emissions if livestock numbers continue to grow.

Experts say governments are making progress but lack a sense of urgency and need to focus on phasing out the major sources of methane including fossil fuels, industrial livestock farming and landfilling of organic waste, rather than the technical fixes and voluntary initiatives offered under the Pledge.

Graphic: Graphic News

Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director at Changing Markets said, “Where is the sense of urgency?

Governments must move faster to cut emissions if they are to deliver on the Pledge. 2030 is just eight years away and the window of opportunity is closing.”

“Getting to grips with livestock methane is critical. Our research shows that just 15 meat and dairy companies emit more methane than Russia or Germany. Governments need to back a shift away from the mass industrial production of livestock, not pin their hopes and our future on voluntary net zero targets that enable these companies to carry on with business as usual,” said Urbancic.

Mariel Vilella, the global climate program director at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) welcomed the fact that governments are starting to acknowledge the outsized importance of addressing methane, but said that “the lack of action on waste frankly stinks.”

“20% of all methane emissions primarily comes from throwing organic waste into landfills.

Therefore the simplest, easiest, fastest solution is not fancy tech fixes, but to stop putting organic waste in landfills in the first place,” Vilella said.

Kim O’Dowd, a campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency said, “we have only a few years to give humanity a shot at staying within a 1.5°C global temperature rise and we have no time for more pledges or declarations.”

“What the world desperately needs now are real actions and commitments, something far more meaningful to address the ongoing crisis.

“We cannot wait for another Climate Summit to deliver on the promises made with the Global Methane Pledge,” O’Dowd said.

With climate change plunging the planet into a seemingly dismal future, negotiations for a global methane agreement has to begin now, with concrete and binding objectives, mandatory reporting, monitoring and verification, national actions plans and targeted financial support to ensure implementation.

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