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COP28: Germany praises efforts to curb methane emissions

December 3, 2023

Germany said there was a major opportunity to "very quickly" cut down on methane emissions with limited financial means. Meanwhile, Al Gore took aim at COP28 hosts UAE.

A flare burns at a well pad at an oil field in the United States
Germany praised an initiative by major energy firms to do away with methane flaring by 2030Image: Matthew Brown/AP/picture alliance

Germany welcomed initiatives to reduce methane emissions that have emerged at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, saying on Sunday that they could quickly make an impact.

Methane is a particularly damaging greenhouse gas, and its effect is 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

Unlike carbon dioxide, however, methane gas remains in the Earth's atmosphere for a few decades, rather than several centuries.

This factor makes it a key factor in negotiations, as quickly curbing methane emissions could help in the shorter-term fight against climate change until carbon dioxide emissions can be significantly reduced.

What did Germany say?

Germany has voiced support for initiatives that would curb methane emissions, urging more countries and companies to act.

When it comes to methane, there's a major opportunity to "achieve a great deal very quickly with limited financial resources," Stefan Wenzel, a state secretary in the German Climate Ministry, said at the summit on Sunday.

He praised recent methane measures announced by the United States, as well as a major deal announced by oil and gas sector giants.

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For Germany, Wenzel said the government's focus is on clamping emissions in the energy sector.

"We are first concentrating on the production of gas and oil," the climate official said, while acknowledging that work needs to be done in the agricultural sector as well, which accounts for the largest portion of methane emissions.

What has been announced on methane?

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden's administration announced final rules that aim to crack down on methane releases in the oil and gas industry.

Separately, 50 oil companies pledged on Saturday to hit near-zero methane emissions and stop flaring — which is the burning of excess methane — by 2030. The companies, which make up nearly half of global oil production, included Saudi Arabia's Aramco, Brazil's Petrobras, as well as Shell, TotalEnergies and BP.

Methane is emitted in the process of extracting oil, coal and gas, with the energy sector coming in as the second-largest source of human-caused methane emissions. The in the energy sector, methane leaks, as well as flaring and venting contribute to worsening climate change.

Technological and operational solutions are already available to largely address the emissions issues, but energy firms have not yet largely implemented them.

Two years ago, the European Union and the United States launched an international commitment to slash methane emissions, called the Global Methane Pledge (GMP). The alliance is set to meet this week during the summit in Dubai.

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A total of 150 countries have joined the GMP, making up over half the methane generated by human activity. Major methane players such as China, India and Russia have not yet joined.

Al Gore takes aim at UAE emissions

Also on Sunday, former US vice president and climate campaigner Al Gore praised the agreement by oil and gas companies to slash methane emissions — but urged for close monitoring to ensure compliance.

"This was a wonderful pledge," Gore said. "But we're going to be measuring whether they comply with this or not."

Gore delivered his message along with independent emissions tracker Climate TRACE, which uses hundreds of satellites and artificial intelligence to monitor emissions around the globe.

In his speech, Gore also took aim at the emissions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who are hosting the COP28. He pointed to data showing that the oil-rich kingdom's greenhouse gas emissions rose by 7.5% last year, compared the 1.5% increase for the entire globe.

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"The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company still claims to have no emissions from methane or anything else from the transport of oil and gas," Gore said.

"Well, actually, they do. We can see them from space," he said, pointing to massive monitors depicting satellite images.

The UAE is facing increased scrutiny over its contribution to climate change, amid intensified efforts at the COP28 to limit global warming and curb the devastating effects of climate change.

rs/kb (dpa, AFP, AP)