Australia has joined 111 other countries in signing the global methane pledge launched at COP26 last year to collectively reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by the end of the decade. 

On Sunday, Australia’s Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen announced that the country is joining the COP26 methane pledge led by the US and the European Union. The move, Bowen said, will help avoid 2C of global warming. 

Australia is the world’s 11th biggest emitter of methane, a gas that is 84 times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a two-decade period and possesses global warming potential 25 times more than carbon dioxide. The extremely potent gas is a major contributor to total GHG emissions, second only to carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Two-thirds of the global economy and half of the top 30 major methane-emitting countries – which together account for 45% of global human-induced methane emissions – joined the global methane pledge at COP26 last year. All signatories commit to taking voluntary actions to collectively reduce emissions of the potent gas by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

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Following Sunday’s announcement, Australia became one of the last major developed economies to sign on to the global effort to slash methane emissions. The decision also marked the latest push by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to make climate change a priority, following years of inaction and climate-denial under former PM Scott Morrison.

Bowen also added that the country is not planning to introduce a methane tax or levies to reduce livestock emissions. Earlier this month, the government of New Zealand announced that it will start taxing farmers by 2025, the world’s first nation taking such step to reduce agricultural emissions. 

According to a recent energy think tank Ember analysis, the cheapest way for Australia to cut methane emissions is to reduce leaks from coal mines. The study found that this could reduce annual emissions by approximately 18% by the decade’s end.

In 2021, increased activity in wetlands and deliberate vents by oil and gas companies have caused methane concentration in the atmosphere to hit a record high of 1,900 parts per billion, a number that is nearly three times the pre-industrial levels, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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