Ed Note: I’m pleased to introduce Melinda Kimble, who will write dispatches from the international climate talks underway in Cancun. Melinda is a senior vice president at the United Nations Foundation (N.B.) and served as a U.S. foreign service officer from 1971 to 2000.
UNEP released their “emissions gap” report today in Cancun, highlighting the gap between Copenhagen pledges and the goal of keeping global temperatures below 2¤C.
The report underscores that to meet our goal, global emissions need to peak before 2020 and fall significantly thereafter. Copenhagen pledges to date don’t achieve this — but the report illustrates that we can do better.
One important option is speeding methane abatement. Methane (yes, natural gas) leaks from pipelines, landfills, wetlands, rice fields, feedlots and hog farms. We have LOW cost technology to reduce this leakage. Installing this technology on a priority basis could 1) expand domestic energy supply, 2) reduce ground level ozone (a health hazard), 3) slow atmospheric warming relatively quickly, increasing the chances of avoiding a temperature peak ever rising above 2¤C, a key factor for the Arctic, Himalayas and coral reefs and 4) lower GHG emissions in the future, limiting the concentrations in the atmosphere.
Methane has 25x the global warming potential of CO2 — so eliminating one ton of methane is equal to 25T of CO2 on a hundred year scale, and 76 tons on a 20-year time scale — with many co-benefits.
Mexico highlighted this opportunity at the UNEP press conference today. If countries take early action on methane, we have the potential to close the emissions “gap” more quickly.
Methane abatement is a lowcost, quick win for the US economy and the planet. We ought to heed Mexico’s message.