Source: Methane Action www.methaneaction.org
In Sharm el-Shiekh: Daphne Wysham, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 503 310 7042
In Paris: Durwood Zaelke, email@example.com, +1-202-498-2457
In New York: Stephen Kent, firstname.lastname@example.org +1 914 589 5988
[Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt – November 17, 2022] At the COP27 climate summit, NGOs and scientists are calling on delegates to specify concrete steps for cutting methane emissions, and for stepped up development of methane removal technologies.
Today, as the Global Methane Pledge ministerial meeting reviewed the first year of voluntary progress towards cutting methane emissions 30% by 2030, climate groups called for a mandatory Global Methane Agreement that would set binding targets for cutting methane emissions and lowering atmospheric methane levels. Their COP27 side event on a Global Methane Agreement is posted here.
So far, negotiations at COP27 have been long on general frameworks for climate finance, and short on concrete steps for keeping global warming within the 1.5°C target set by the Paris agreement. “The world’s chance at 1.5°C is bleeding off like methane from a leaky pipe,” said Stanford Professor and Methane Action Board Member Rob Jackson.
This week the G20 issued a statement “resolv[ing] to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” But last month, the UN Environmental Programme warned greenhouse gas emissions reduction has proved so meager that there is currently “no credible pathway” to staying within that guardrail. Some delegations at the COP, including China’s, didn’t want 1.5°C mentioned in the text of the summit’s official document. Meanwhile, protestors outside the summit demanded “to keep 1.5 alive.” Concerted action on decarbonization together with methane mitigation and removal is our best and fastest option to limit overshooting the 1.5°C guardrail in the near term, advocates and scientists say.
China is by far the world’s largest methane emitter. It has not signed the Global Methane Pledge, though last year it did sign the bilateral US-China Glasgow Declaration on climate action, where both countries agreed to develop a national action plan for “methane control and reductions in the 2020s” by COP27. China has not yet revealed the details of its draft plan, but a Chinese official at the COP signaled that a preliminary plan has been written.
“We’re making progress on methane, and there’s wide recognition of the imperative to lower methane levels, but we’re not going fast enough,” said Daphne Wysham, CEO of Methane Action. “To keep 1.5 alive, we’ll need more than voluntary frameworks and preliminary plans. We need a binding agreement, with targets and timetables for getting record-high atmospheric methane concentrations back down to preindustrial levels. With a combination of deep emissions cuts and fast-tracking methane removal technologies, scientists believe this could be accomplished by 2050, which would avoid a 0.6 degrees Celsius of warming. Developing methane removal could also equip us to deal with a worst-case scenario of a methane burst from thawing permafrost in the Arctic. Once proven safe and effective, with good governance in place, methane removal will be an essential part of climate restoration.”
Research is underway on promising methane removal technologies that could potentially accelerate the natural process of methane oxidation in the atmosphere, breaking it down to water vapor and carbon dioxide — shortening the duration that super-potent methane traps heat in the atmosphere, delivering a big net gain for the climate that would substantially reduce radiative forcing and near-term warming.
Working with scientists and governance experts, Methane Action has laid out a feasible timetable for developing and deploying methane removal. It calls for fully funding methane removal research and development over the next two years, and working to ensure good governance including framing a Global Methane Agreement, and achieving alignment with civil society groups working on cutting methane emissions over the next few years.
With a Global Methane Agreement in place, small-scale tests of methane removal technologies that prove safe and effective could get underway, and large-scale tests could follow by or before 2030. By the early to mid-2030s, assuming biogenic methane emissions stay relatively constant, methane removal could potentially lower atmospheric methane levels 10% to 1700 parts per billion, significantly enhancing the impacts of fulfilling the Global Methane Pledge goal of cutting emissions 30%. By 2050, with methane emissions cut 30-45% and methane removal scaled up, atmospheric methane could be restored to its pre-industrial level of 700 ppb. Scientists estimate this would avoid 0.6°C of warming in the next few decades.
“Returning methane levels in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels by 2050 is achievable,” said Wysham. “Methane is one of the most powerful levers we have to bend the climate curve in the near term, and we really can use it to reduce warming 0.6°C by midcentury. But it will require specificity and commitment to these goals. If governments and jurisdictions act quickly to frame and sign a Global Methane Agreement that adopts targets similar to the ones we’ve laid out, we’ll have a much better chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.”
“We need to move beyond pledges—which are just the starting gun in the methane sprint that we need to win to keep the planet safe—and make it a planetary priority to develop a binding methane agreement in the next two years, “ said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, in Paris, and member of the Board of Methane Action.
“In order to allow carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to scale-up at a climatically relevant scale, we need to reduce the stock of atmospheric methane,” said Renaud de Richter, science advisor to Methane Action. “That’s the most effective strategy to keep the door open for limiting warming to 1.5˚C. As an essential supplement to methane mitigation, methane removal needs the research and development funding to supplement the vital work being done to reduce methane emissions today.”
Last year, leading climate scientists endorsed a sign-on letter calling for aggressive reductions in methane emissions, funding research and development of methane removal technologies and framing and implementing a global agreement to return atmospheric methane concentrations to preindustrial levels. Last week, climate pioneer James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, signed the letter.
“Many members of Climate Action Network are very concerned about the rapid rise in atmospheric methane,” said Dr. Stephan Singer of the Climate Action Network, speaking at COP27. “Methane emissions are occurring in many sectors like industrial agriculture and fossil fuels and we would like to significantly change these sectors to zero emissions, eventually.”
Many of Climate Action Network’s over 1800 members and other citizen sector organizations are signing onto a new statement asking governments and international bodies to research and develop promising methane removal technologies and to frame governance for testing and deploying them safely and justly. Signatories “urge all governments and jurisdictions to take such actions rapidly and ask that relevant frameworks including the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement address them.”
The statement remains open for signature. So far, it has been endorsed by Oxfam International, Union of Concerned Scientists (US), Friends Committee on National Legislation (US), Hip Hop Caucus (US), Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, The Wilderness Society (US), Stand.Earth (US, Canada), Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative (US), The Climate Center (US), Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (US), Virginia Interfaith Power & Light (US), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pennsylvania (US), Extinction Rebellion (US), Unitarian Universalist Environmental Justice Ministry (US), Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment (US) Extinction Rebellion (US), Climate Action for Lifelong Learners (US), The People’s Justice Council (US) Center for Sustainable Economy (US), Stable Planet Alliance (US), Elders Climate Action (US), Foundation for Climate Restoration (US) The Imani Group (US), Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (US) EcoEquity (US), Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (US), Government Accountability Project (US), Hago Energetics Benefit Corporation (US), Climate Action Network New Zealand, Climate Action Network Zimbabwe, Climate Action Network Australia, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth -Nigeria, BEST Futures (Australia), Northern Beaches Climate Action Network (Australia), Iceland Nature Conservation Association (Iceland), Sociedad Amigos del Viento (Uruguay), Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Argentina), Climate Action for Lifelong Learners (Canada), AbibiNsroma Foundation (Ghana), Talanoa (Brazil), Climate Reality Leaders (Finland), and Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental A.C (Mexico).
Daphne Wysham, Durwood Zaelke, and Methane Action’s allied scientists, Rob Jackson and Renaud De Richter are available for comment and interviews. For more information, please contact Daphne Wysham in Sharm el-Shiekh,