Biden administration announces major new restrictions on methane emission as COP28 rolls on
Dubai, UAE - The Biden administration on Saturday announced it would tighten curbs on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, a critical step toward meeting its commitments to reduce the greenhouse gas.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the announcement during the COP28 climate talks in the UAE, where the host country, the US and China were set to hold talks on methane and other non-carbon dioxide gases.
Methane – which is potent but relatively short-lived – is a key target for countries wanting to slash emissions quickly and slow climate change. It is responsible for about one-third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today.
"The finalization of these methane standards addresses a glaring regulatory gap," said Julie McNamara of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"For far too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to spew methane and serious health-harming pollutants without any limits, all while shoving the towering costs of that pollution onto people and the environment."
US methane emissions rising despite previous pledge
The new standards would phase in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas produced by oil wells and require comprehensive monitoring of methane leaks from wells and compression stations.
It would also establish standards requiring reductions in emissions from equipment such as pumps, controllers, and storage tanks.
The US and the EU led a Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in Glasgow. It now has 111 country participants who have vowed to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.
But an analysis of satellite data by environmental intelligence company Kayrros shows so far little progress among the signatories, save for Australia. US emissions are actually increasing.
McNamara said the new rules would not make fossil fuels "clean".
"For the health and well-being of people across the country, and the world, this must only be an intermediate step on the path to a sharp wind-down of fossil fuels," she said.
Harris makes first US pledge to climate fund in almost a decade
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was sent by Biden in his place to Dubai, also announced the US would contribute $3 billion to a global climate fund.
"Today, we are demonstrating through action how the world can and must meet this crisis," Harris told the climate summit in Dubai.
The new money, which must be approved by the US Congress, will go into the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created in 2010.
The last US contribution to the fund for developing countries was made under then President Barack Obama, who committed $3 billion in 2014.
And in what was described by some advocates as a mostly symbolic move, officials said it is committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants, and joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
Cover photo: REUTERS