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COP26: US Pledges To ‘Sharply’ Reduce Methane Emissions

US President Joe Biden’s administration announced new regulations during the global climate summit on Tuesday aimed at “sharply” reducing methane emissions by the oil and natural gas industry.

The announcement came as Biden attended the COP26 in Glasgow, where dozens of countries joined an American and European Union pledged to cut emissions of methane — the most potent greenhouse gas — by 30 percent this decade.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it was proposing “comprehensive new protections to sharply reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry.”

“The proposed rule would reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, the equivalent of 920 million metric tons of carbon dioxide,” the EPA said in a statement.

“That’s more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from all US passenger cars and commercial aircraft in 2019,” it added.

The emission reduction requirements would apply not only to existing oil and gas sources but to those built in the future.

US President Joe Biden addresses a press conference at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 2, 2021. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

It requires states to “develop plans to limit methane emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sources nationwide.”

The EPA said it expects to issue a final rule before the end of the year.

“As global leaders convene at this pivotal moment in Glasgow for COP26, it is now abundantly clear that America is back and leading by example in confronting the climate crisis with bold ambition,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

The White House also announced that the Department of Transportation will upgrade and expand pipeline rules that will require operators to cut methane leaks.

The administration will also launch an “aggressive” program to plug hundreds of thousands of “orphan” oil and gas wells, including many that are still spewing out methane.

The oil and gas industry is responsible for around 30 percent of total methane emissions in the United States.

Biden has set a reduction target of 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

The Biden administration announcement was welcomed by environmental groups.

“Swiftly reducing methane emissions will result in significant and much-needed near-term climate progress,” said Julie McNamara, deputy policy director in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Today’s actions by EPA Administrator Regan take important strides in achieving that necessary progress,” McNamara said.

Thanu Yakupitiyage of international environmental organization 350.org said CO2 emissions must be addressed as well.

“Methane emissions must be curbed and curbed quick,” Yakupitiyage said. “But this effort should not deviate from efforts to curb CO2 emissions.”

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