Biden Says U.S. Working With EU on Pledge to Cut Global Methane Emissions

Biden Says U.S. Working With EU on Pledge to Cut Global Methane Emissions

14:02 - President encourages others to join in target of cutting global emissions by nearly a third by 2030

President Biden said the U.S. is working with the European Union on a pledge to help cut global methane emissions by nearly a third by 2030, and he encouraged other countries to sign on to the effort.

“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,” Mr. Biden said Friday during remarks at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, a long-dormant event that Mr. Biden revived ahead of United-Nations-led climate negotiations scheduled for November in Glasgow.

More than a half dozen heads of state joined Mr. Biden virtually for what he said would be a candid assessment of the threats of climate change. Much of the event was closed to the public.

The pledge would be the first global commitment to cut emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas less prevalent than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but far more potent at trapping heat. Biden administration officials have been working for weeks to get the EU and others to sign on, focusing in particular on the world’s largest economies and oil and gas producers.

Mr. Biden didn’t say which other countries had agreed to support the pledge. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told world leaders during the session that the U.K. would join the methane-reduction effort, according to Mr. Johnson’s office.

“We believe the collective goal is both ambitious, but realistic and we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge at COP26,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the summit in Glasgow.

Dubbed the Global Methane Pledge, the agreement doesn’t call for country-specific targets, but rather for the signatories to support an effort to reduce global, human-caused methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared with 2020 levels.

Policies aimed at cutting methane emissions could fall the heaviest on oil-and-gas companies, one of the leading sources. Methane can escape into the atmosphere from leaks at drilling and storage sites or as it moves through pipelines on its way to customers including power plants and homeowners who heat with natural gas. The farming and waste-management industries are also significant sources of methane emissions.

Galvanizing world leaders to force steep emissions cuts has proven difficult, and the public list of attendees for Friday’s forum notably didn’t include heads of state from China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, or some staunch U.S. allies such as Canada and Germany.

Attending the virtual event were the leaders of Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the U.K., the European Commission, the European Council and the United Nations, according to the White House. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry attended in person.

Lower-level officials from China, Russia, Germany and India also participated, according to the White House. Mr. Kerry led a minister-level session with those officials following the leader-level meeting, the White House said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body, in August said reduced methane emissions would be one of the most effective and immediate ways to slow climate change. But methane emissions have been rising for several decades, driven by industrial-scale farming and growing energy demand, especially for natural gas. Russia, the world’s largest methane emitter according to the International Energy Agency, hasn’t agreed to the Global Methane Pledge.

Russia’s climate envoy attended Friday’s meeting, according to an updated list of participants released by the White House on Friday afternoon, but Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t participate.

The forum’s members—roughly mirroring the Group of 20 leading economies—account for 80% of the world’s emissions, Mr. Biden said. Other countries, especially in the developing world, are hesitant to act if these richer nations don’t move first, both to cut their own missions and help fund efforts from poorer countries to do the same.

Senior White House officials have said not to expect further commitments to come out of Friday’s event. They framed it as an opportunity for heads of state to talk, saying Mr. Biden wants more frequent sessions such as this to raise climate change as an international priority.

Mr. Biden said earlier this year that the U.S. would seek to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 50% to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030. The year 2005 is a common baseline for such climate targets.

During his remarks, Mr. Biden also called on countries to increase the ambition of their national pledges to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the Glasgow summit.

“We have to bring to Glasgow our highest possible ambitions. Those that have not yet done so, time is running out,” he said.

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