Fighting the climate crisis: a quick fix by reducing methane?

Status: 17.09.2021 3:08 PM

In the fight against the climate crisis, there are many commitments, but little progress. The United Nations and the United States now want to speed up the process with a new summit. Above all, methane emissions of the greenhouse gas must be reduced.

By Werner Eckert, Environment Editor at ARD

Before the general election, everyone in this country is talking about climate protection – but little is happening internationally at the moment. This week, Climate Action Tracker CAT calculated that there have been no new commitments from states on specific 2030 climate protection targets for several months.

After the clear statements by the European Union and the United States of America in April, calm reigned: 70 countries – more than a third of the signatories to the Paris Agreement – did nothing to do. Dozens of other countries – including Switzerland and New Zealand – have made weaker commitments than before. The world is far from the common goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Focus on methane

US President Joe Biden and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres now want to give new impetus to the issue through high-level meetings behind closed doors. At the “main emissions forum,” Biden still wanted to focus primarily on the greenhouse gas methane.

The United States of America and the European Union have reached a “global methane pledge”, to which as many as possible should agree. The key is a commitment to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas. Because of its relatively short duration of activity in the atmosphere, reducing it quickly achieves climate protection success.

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Agriculture is a major pollutant

Germany is represented by the Parliamentary Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Rita Schwarzleuhr-Sutter. However, it remains unclear whether Germany can join the group of supporters. It does not have as many methane emissions as others. They are mainly caused by leaks in oil and gas production. There is easy fighting.

In our country, methane is produced mainly in agriculture by raising livestock. The Climate Protection Act only mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by less than 20 percent for agriculture by 2030. So the “Global Methane Pledge” would represent a significant tightening.

Consulting behind closed doors

It is unclear what other countries will be represented and whether, for example, China’s head of state and government Xi Jinping will participate. He was present at Biden’s first ever meeting in April. However, perhaps the US president learned a lesson from this event, which was public at the time, that this is only a way to capture store window letters. Because he wants to achieve something substantial this time, the doors remain closed. It is also unclear whether there will be a review of the meeting after that, or whether it will be left to states to publish their position themselves sooner or later.

Biden also wants to pressure struggling nations to meet their 2030 climate commitments ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow. Monday’s meeting aims in the same direction. To this end, United Nations Secretary-General Guterres and British Prime Minister Johnson have invited to host the climate summit in Glasgow. This meeting will also be held in secret session on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Chancellor Merkel – like the others – will be physically connected here.

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More aid to developing countries

Guterres blames mistrust for the lack of progress in international climate negotiations, and has previously said the aim of these talks is to build trust. Some emerging countries will have to do more, but on the other hand, industrialized countries will eventually have to meet their financial obligations. They have pledged to mobilize $100 billion annually to help poor countries move toward a clean energy future. But so far, only 80 billion euros have been raised.

Germany’s Minister of State for the Environment, Jochen Flasbarth, is supposed to help here with Canada’s Environment Minister. They should close the gap by the Glasgow Climate Summit. The elected president of this conference, Alok Sharma, entrusted them with this. The Guterres event is supposed to help. There is also a public event where Chancellor Merkel will broadcast a video message.

The Climate Conference will take place in Glasgow in the first two weeks of November. “With the current situation, we risk failure there,” Guterres warned this week.

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