Pressure on Irish farmers to reduce methane production by cattle will increase if the United States and the European Union agree to cut emissions of methane by around a third in the next nine years.
According to documents seen by the Reuters news agency, leaders in Washington and Brussels are about to pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 (compared to 2020).
A separate document listed more than 20 countries the US and the EU would target to join the pledge. They include major methane emitters such as China, Russia, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Qatar, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa.
US President Joe Biden said he would use a meeting tomorrow, Friday, to invite 17 major economies to join a “Global Methane Pledge" to be launched by the time of November's COP26 climate summit. The US and EU agreeing to quickly cut methane emissions is part of their diplomatic push to get other nations to join the pledge.
President Biden’s announcement is planned for the virtual meeting tomorrow of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, to help build momentum before the United Nations-sponsored COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, from October 31 to November 12.
A methane clampdown poses a major challenge for Ireland because it is calculated to comprise 24.6% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from agriculture. Ruminants are the main source, with each cow burping about 350g per day.
The Biden administration in Washington is said to have been working on the methane pact for months.
Although methane is estimated to be the second biggest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide, it is no surprise that it is first for global attention, because methane naturally leaves the atmosphere in about 12 years.
Therefore, reducing it can rapidly reduce global warming, in comparison to trying to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, the main greenhouse gas, which persists and accumulates in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years.
EU experts have estimated that cutting global emissions of methane by half by 2050 would shave 0.18 degrees off the rise in global temperatures.
Experts say the fossil fuel sector has the biggest potential to cut methane emissions, by mending leaky pipelines or gas storage facilities, often at low cost. Satellite images show major methane emissions from oil and gas sites worldwide. The US and EU are both due to propose laws this year to restrict these methane emissions, and other sources such as agriculture and waste landfills.
The EU (estimated to produce 5% of global methane emissions) already has policies to reduce methane emissions 29% by 2030 (compared to 2005) but would need to speed that up to 37%, in line with the latest EU plan to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55%, by 2030.