The pledge to rein in output of the potent greenhouse gas is already backed by nations including the U.K., Canada and Germany. The U.S. and the EU will likely reveal additional signatories at the COP26 summit on Nov. 2, the official said, asking not to be identified discussing a confidential matter, and declining to name them.
Nations in the agreement commit to support a collective goal to cut methane output by at least 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade — with potential reductions coming from the oil industry, agriculture and waste, among other sources. Dozens of countries have joined the pact since it was first proposed — representing almost a third of global methane emissions — and efforts continue to sign up more.
The U.S. is working with “development banks, bilateral aid agencies and with governments everywhere to ensure that we have the strongest possible launch of this global methane pledge at COP26,” Rick Duke, White House liaison for the special presidential envoy for climate change, said Tuesday. Duke expects ministers will convene annually to take stock of progress toward the target.
Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, with more than 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over the short term. But it’s also a relatively cheap and easy problem to fix, at least in the energy industry: the United Nations has found that as much as 80% of measures to curb leaks from oil and gas operations can be implemented at no cost.
With the current energy crisis changing the dynamics of diplomatic talks, other goals at the UN climate summit — billed as a make-or-break event to curb global warming — may prove harder to achieve. Several nations have pushed back against sweeping proposals such as a broad phase-out of coal.
If the methane pact is successful and its emissions-reduction target met, at least 0.2 degrees Celsius could be shaved off global warming by mid-century. Efforts are buoyed by recent advances in technology, with cameras making the invisible gas detectable around fossil-fuel infrastructure worldwide.
In Europe, policy makers are expected to propose laws soon that will force gas companies to monitor and report their methane emissions, and improve the detection and repair of leaks. The new EU measures would cover both intentional and unintentional methane seepage, and would be aimed at spurring similar action internationally.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose requirements for stemming methane leaks at oil and gas wells as soon as next week. The agency will seek to strengthen mandates for newly modified and drilled wells, while establishing standards for the hundreds of thousands of others drilled long ago.