COP26: World leaders sign up to pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030

Methane emissions come from many sources such as landfills. Credit: PA

More than 80 countries have signed up to a global methane pledge agreeing to cut their emissions by the end of the decade to reduce global warming.

Countries responsible for almost half the world’s methane emissions have committed to reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gases they release into the atmosphere by 30% by 2030.

The UK, the US, and European Union members, are among the countries that have signed up so far at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Methane emissions come from many sources, such as landfills, oil, gas, coal, and agriculture, and cutting back on them is considered one of the most effective ways to reduce global warming.

President Joe Biden described the pledge, led by the US and the EU, as a "game-changing commitment" that will "make a huge difference" to the planet's rising temperature levels.

Speaking at the UN climate change summit, President Biden said: “Today it's approaching 100 countries that are signing on [to the pledge]. That’s nearly half the global methane emissions... and I believe we could probably go beyond that".

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half the warming we are experiencing today” - President Joe Biden

Mr Biden said the pledge would not only help fight climate change but also improve health, cut crop losses and reduce pollution.

“One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade to keep 1.5 degrees is reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It’s one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half the warming we are experiencing today.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called it a "fantastic" effort and described cutting methane emissions as the "lowest hanging fruit" to effectively reduce global warming in the near-term.

"We have to act now... We cannot wait for 2050"

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen explained cutting methane emissions is one of the fastest ways to reduce global warming

She said if the goal is met, it could also prevent more than 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related A&E visits and more than 20 million tonnes of crop losses a year. 

Ms von der Leyen told the summit: "We have to act now. We need big structural changes just to reach 2050 climate neutrality but we cannot wait for 2050.

"We have to cut emissions fast. And methane is one of the gases we can cut fastest. 

"Doing that will immediately slow down climate change because we all know methane is a powerful greenhouse gas...

"Methane has 80 times more global warming than CO2 and today global methane emissions grow faster than at any time in the past."

Clamping down on methane flaring and leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines is considered one of the easiest ways to cut emissions.

Cutting methane produced from agriculture - in particular by belching cows - is a trickier matter.

Helen Mountford, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute, said the agreement “sets a strong floor in terms of the ambition we need globally.”

Downing Street has said the climate change talks are now beginning to gather “significant momentum”.