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US launches plans to curb methane emissions

US vice president Kamala Harris announced a further pledge to help combat climate change Reuters/Amr Alfiky
US vice president Kamala Harris announced a further pledge to help combat climate change
  • EPA sets news rules
  • Measures worth $7bn a year
  • US pledges $3bn to green fund
  • UAE to contribute $100m to methane trust fund

The United States has announced a comprehensive plan to target methane emissions from the country’s oil and gas sector – a critical step in the global effort to curb emissions contributing to climate change.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced policies banning routine flaring of natural gas from new oil wells, mandating leak monitoring at well sites and compressor stations, and establishing a programme using third-party remote sensing for detecting large methane releases.

The EPA estimates these measures will yield climate and health benefits worth up to $7.6 billion a year until 2038, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of the US power sector in 2021, as well as recovering $13 billion worth of natural gas. 

The regulations, which were two years in the making, were announced on Saturday by US officials at the United Nations Cop28 climate change conference in Dubai. 

They are expected to play a crucial role in achieving a 150-country pledge made in 2020 to cut methane emissions by 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. 

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is known for its high warming potential, but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide, making its reduction vital for immediate climate impact.

Michael Regan, an administrator at the EPA, said at a Cop28 press conference that the new standards will “sharply reduce” harmful pollutants from the oil and gas industry.

“Oil and gas operations are the United States’ largest industrial source of methane,” he said. 

“Sharp cuts in methane emissions are among the most critical actions the US can take in the short term to slow the rate of climate change.

“The standards, while ambitious, are common sense, comprehensive and legally designed to reduce dangerous air pollution, while still providing industry with adequate time and flexibility to comply in a cost-effective manner.”

Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber also announced that the UAE will contribute $100 million to the World Bank’s methane trust fund, which is meant to help reduce flaring and emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas.

In a related development, the US announced a $3 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund, adding to its previous $2 billion contribution. 

Established in 2010, it stands as the largest international fund committed to climate action, with over $20 billion in pledges to date.

Vice president Kamala Harris also announced the pledge on Saturday at the UN climate summit. 

Representing the US at Cop28 in place of President Joe Biden, Harris leads a delegation that includes climate envoy John Kerry, US national climate advisor Ali Zaidi, and several senior officials.

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