Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It is also a valuable resource that can be used as fuel. In this blog post, we will look at how China and the US, the two largest emitters of methane and carbon dioxide, are addressing this issue and its implications for the upcoming COP28 summit.
China's Methane Plans: A Breakthrough for Climate Diplomacy?
China has finally unveiled its methane plans after two years of anticipation. The plans are part of its efforts to cooperate with the US on climate change, following a four-day meeting between Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and US counterpart John Kerry in California.
According to the plans, China will "effectively improve" its monitoring and supervision systems for methane in its five-year plan period through 2025 and "significantly improve" those systems in 2026-2030. China will also reduce "flaring" or burning off emissions at oil and gas wells, and target methane leaks at coal mines to be closed. The plans do not specify any targets for reducing methane, but they do include capturing and utilizing emissions as fuel. China aims to use 6 billion cubic meters of methane gas released from coal mines by 2025 and achieve an "international advanced level" of emissions from oilfields by 2030.
China is currently responsible for more than 14% of global methane emissions. By announcing its methane plans, China has shown its willingness to work with the US on climate change, and possibly pave the way for a joint statement at the COP28 summit.
US Climate Assessment: A Wake-Up Call for Action?
The US has also released its Fifth National Climate Assessment, which documents the observed and projected vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts of climate change across the country. The assessment also provides examples of response actions underway across the country.
The assessment reveals that annual GHG emissions fell 12% between 2005 and 2019, largely due to changes in electricity generation, which resulted in a 40% drop in emissions from the electricity sector. The costs of wind and solar energy dropped 70-90% respectively, over the last decade, while 80% of new generation capacity in 2020 came from renewable sources. Eighteen states have existing climate adaptation plans, and another six states have plans underway.
The assessment also highlights the Biden administration's "Investing in America Agenda", which has spurred $614 billion in investments to build the manufacturing base of the future, $392 billion to upgrade public infrastructure and invest in clean energy, and $8.8 billion in home energy rebates to states.
However, the assessment also warns that Americans are facing a multitude of climate change driven events, such as droughts, floods, extreme heat, hurricanes, and wildfires. The US now experiences a billion-dollar disaster approximately every three weeks, costing the US an estimated $150 billion a year. The assessment urges that the cost of adapting and mitigating to climate change will be lower than the cost of inaction.
EU Sets an Ambitious Goal to Phase Out Fossil Fuels
As the world prepares for the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Emirates, from November 30th to December 12th, the EU has set an ambitious goal to phase out fossil fuels that emit CO-2. The EU's 27 member countries have unanimously agreed to urge COP28 to end the use of "unabated" fossil fuels, which do not capture or store the carbon emissions they produce. This means that countries can still burn coal, gas, and oil if they employ technology to "abate" - or capture - the emissions.
The EU has also made progress on securing its supply of critical raw materials (CRMs), which are essential for the EU's economy and green transition, but they face high risks of supply disruption. The EU has reached a provisional agreement on a European Critical Raw Materials Act, which aims to increase and diversify the EU's sources of CRMs, promote circularity and recycling, and support research and innovation on resource efficiency and alternatives.
COP28 is the global summit where countries and stakeholders will work together to tackle the climate crisis, by agreeing on actions such as limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities cope with the impacts of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. COP28 is expected to attract more than 70,000 participants, including the member states (or Parties) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as business leaders, youth, climate scientists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, and various other experts and stakeholders.
Topics in the spotlight:
1. Reducing global methane and flaring emissions
2. Enhancing resilience, especially for developing regions
3. Reforming climate finance, by fulfilling previous commitments and establishing a new deal on finance