COP26: Comments on global methane pledge

Updated pledge announced today at COP26 in Glasgow to cut global methane emissions

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By George Smeeton

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Commenting on an updated pledge announced today at COP26 in Glasgow to cut global methane emissions, Prof Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, said: "Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas and rapid cuts would make an important difference. It has contributed about 0.5C to warming to-date and although it doesn't stay as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release it is 80 times more powerful at heating.

“Methane is an easy win in terms of climate action: cuts using existing technologies and adopting different land management practices could reduce warming by 0.25C by 2050 at little or no cost, and help to keep 1.5 alive.”

Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy at the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources, UCL, said: “This looks like a significant step forward on progress to tackle a highly potent greenhouse gas at COP26, with many more countries involved today than in the original announcement earlier this year. Brazil’s inclusion is also very important given size of its agricultural sector; at 40%, agriculture is the largest source of global methane emissions.

“For emissions from oil and gas, one would hope too that Russia will join this initiative; its oil and gas operations are a major source of methane emissions due to the country’s long and reportedly leaky gas pipelines which are hard to monitor. These emissions are also relatively cheap to plug, so really should be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Joanna Haigh, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, said: “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, around eighty times stronger than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period. But it survives only for about a decade once in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 lasts hundreds of years.

“This means that cutting methane emissions has a relatively swift impact and today’s pledge, to cut emissions to 70% of current levels within a by 2030, would reduce the temperature rise by about one third of a degree C by 2045. This offers an important and significant contribution to restricting global warming.”

Gareth Redmond-King, COP26 Communications and Engagement Lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas; acting to cut quickly can buy valuable time as national emissions pledges still lag behind the Paris ambition of keeping warming to 1.5°. The growing list of countries committing to slashing it is a welcome pillar in the work in Glasgow to continue and build on this momentum.

“Most people would associate methane emissions with agriculture, but the global energy industry contributes almost as much, with waste making up the rest. UN processes can be difficult to follow, but for the benefit of everyone outside these talks, the solution to this one is not that complex: the polluter should pay. We already know that 1.5° means we need to phase out coal, oil and gas. But as we do, fossil fuel companies will need to be made to clean up their act to stop the methane that that escapes from their actions.”


For more information:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email:

Kathy Grenville, Communications Officer, ECIU, Tel: +44 (0)7501 874214, email: