The Biden administration announced the release of an updated U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, which outlines a comprehensive sequence of initiatives aimed at lowering methane emissions throughout the United States.
The plan, revealed at the COP27 climate summit, involves more than $20 billion in new investments to combat methane emissions, with funds coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and annual appropriations.
The plan includes as key investment sectors the capping of abandoned oil and gas wells, the improvement of industrial equipment, and the reclamation of abandoned coal mines.
Rapid reduction of methane emissions is viewed as one of the most effective near-term steps that can be implemented to reach the global climate target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Methane, which is emitted by activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel production and transport, coal mining, and landfills, is a greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. Given its significantly shorter lifetime in the atmosphere (10-12 years vs. 50-100 years for CO2), however, near-term reductions in methane emissions can have a significant impact on the climate in the coming years.
The news follows the unveiling of the original plan and the launch at COP26 by the U.S. and EU of the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to their levels in 2020. Since its inception, more than 130 countries have signed the promise, representing more than half of worldwide methane emissions.
The revised plan emphasizes several activities aimed at reducing methane emissions in several sectors. In the fossil fuel sector, for instance, the administration has announced plans to spend $5 billion to plug tens of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells, which are a major source of methane emissions, and over $1.5 billion in financial and technical assistance to monitor and reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, while the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act allocates over $11 billion over 15 years to reclaim abandoned coal mines. Initiatives in the agriculture sector include expanding the market for "climate-smart" commodities, supporting investments in anaerobic digesters on livestock farms, and investing in research, whereas initiatives in the building and industrial sectors include investing in energy efficiency and electrification upgrades, improving appliance efficiency standards, and accelerating heat pump deployment.
Other measures planned for investment and action include increasing the capture of methane emissions at landfills, reducing food waste, and expanding clean technology at industrial facilities, such as clean hydrogen to replace fossil fuels.
In his statement at COP27 announcing U.S. climate efforts, President Biden stated:
"Methane is 80 times more potent than carbon and responsible for about half of the current net warming. Therefore, reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030 is our best chance of meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius objective."