A cheap fix to global warming is finally gaining support

Support for one of the least expensive and most effective climate initiatives is growing worldwide, and the timing of this movement couldn't be more critical.

Leaders are being forced to focus more on measures that can limit extreme heat within decades as a result of the planet's rapid warming. As a result, countries are beginning to take the reduction of unnecessary methane emissions from fossil fuel production more seriously.

According to a Bloomberg Green story from last month, U.S. officials are talking with their colleagues in Turkmenistan about how to assist the country in limiting some of the worst methane emissions in the world, which come from its old oil and gas facilities. Regulations from the European Union may also make it possible to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that leak from the coal mines throughout the continent.

According to calculations by Bloomberg and the energy think tank Ember, the combined measures would have about the same short-term climate effect as wiping out roughly 290 million tons of CO2 annually if all the gas that has been leaked or vented by Turkmenistan's energy sector was salvaged and burned instead and the EU regulations came into effect. That would be the equivalent of wiping out Taiwan's emissions, the top chip manufacturer in the world and the 21st worst polluter. In the upcoming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States is anticipated to present its strategy for enacting a new methane emissions charge that was required by the comprehensive climate bill that was passed last year.

The steps might signal a move toward real climate action, even if significant gas emissions reductions from the energy sector are still required from many more nations worldwide, particularly from large polluters like China and Russia.

According to Alice C. Hill, a senior scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, "the potential U.S.-Turkmenistan deal and the new EU legislation show demonstrable progress in reducing global methane pollution, demonstrating that the 2021 Global Methane Pledge is more than just a promise."

One of the easiest things to do in the fight against climate change is to stop methane from being released from coal mines, natural gas and oil production, whether on purpose or by accident. This is because reducing the amount of methane released can often be achieved by simply modernizing and optimizing infrastructure.

Operators may be able to offer more products as a result of such renovations. It is estimated by the International Energy Agency that around 40% of emissions from gas and oil may be adopted at no net cost. The EPA claims that there is also a good chance to reduce methane emissions from big, permeable underground coal mines. While there is still some warming associated with burning methane, the main component of natural gas, it is far less than if the uncombusted gas escapes directly into the sky.

According to Sabina Assan, an Ember methane analyst, coal mines in Europe currently capture and control a significant portion of the methane that erupts from their mines, but frequently fail to process or combust it before shipping it to markets. As a result, she estimates that the new EU regulations could reduce methane emissions from coal mines in the bloc by almost 40% by 2040. The rules may alter and still need to go through final discussions with the member nations of the bloc.

Assan explained, "This is essentially just asking mines to improve the systems they already have in place." "It's really not that expensive, and it's something they should be doing already."

The EU regulations, according to Assan, are important because they measure and mitigate emissions from both active and abandoned mines. This is because many shafts continue to leak methane long after they cease production, despite the disappointment of some climate activist groups that the regulations aren't more ambitious.

Turkmenistan is a vital component of the global climate puzzle, despite its sparse population and infrequent appearance in international news. This is because it is home to the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world and produces more methane per unit of oil and gas output than any other significant oil or gas-producing nation. According to an examination of satellite data by Kayrros SAS, Turkmenistan accounted for the bulk of the world's 500 most intense global methane leaks since 2019 that have been linked to the oil and gas industry.

A plan that includes steps to research the possibility of the nation joining the worldwide Methane Pledge, a project sponsored by the United States and the European Union aimed at reducing worldwide emissions of the gas by thirty percent by the end of the decade, was authorized by President Serdar Berdymukhamedov. Present estimates place gas waste in Turkmenistan at 7% due to intentional flaring or venting as well as unintentional leakage.

According to persons familiar with the conversations, the U.S. may be able to offer financial support through the Export-Import Bank to oil service companies such as Halliburton Co. and SLB, formerly Schlumberger, who are trying to find leaks and repair equipment in Turkmenistan.

Manfredi Caltagirone, the director of the United Nations Environment Program's International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), said, "It is very encouraging that Turkmenistan is stepping up efforts to mitigate its methane emissions, and that international partners are ready to support Turkmenistan in this journey."

Additionally, the US government is taking many measures to combat methane leaks from oil fields. A landmark proposal that the Environmental Protection Agency is anticipated to complete by the end of this year would restrict the use of flaring—the process by which natural gas at oil wells is burned off as less potent carbon dioxide—and require routine monitoring for leaks at even tiny wells. Company blueprints for plugging them would also be necessary.

According to US officials, the regulations would allow oil and gas producers to keep more than 80% of the proceeds from the sale of natural gas that would otherwise go unrecorded. EPA's proposed rules are projected to reduce methane emissions, however the expected reductions are not linear, and the agency did not provide an annual breakdown.

On the other hand, the agency's 12-year timescale, when the predicted cutbacks are averaged, indicates that the measures would prevent around 2.7 million metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere each year. Since methane is a strong greenhouse gas, removing 225 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually or stopping Pakistan's emissions will have the same short-term climatic impact.

Prior to COP26 in 2021, the US and the EU elevated methane to a high priority, which helped to unite almost 150 countries behind the global commitment. The emphasis now is on taking action locally rather than on adding additional nations to the project, which was first announced nearly two years ago.

Global methane emissions are expected to rise by 30% by 2030, but this target is unlikely to be reached, according to David Oxley, director of climate economics at Capital Economics. In a recent statement, Oxley stated that the attempts to address methane emissions "give us confidence" that emissions will begin to decrease this decade.