Biden outlines major methane reduction strategy at UN climate conference

By: - November 2, 2021 2:10 pm
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 01: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the COP26 UN Climate Summit on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. 2021 sees the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference will run from 31 October for two weeks, finishing on 12 November. It was meant to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Adrian Dennis - Pool/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Nov. 1: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, United Kingdom. 2021 sees the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference will run from 31 Oct. for two weeks, finishing on 12 Nov. It was meant to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Adrian Dennis – Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden administration plans to release a comprehensive methane reduction plan as part of the president’s participation in the United Nations climate summit, administration officials said Monday.

In addition to a comprehensive White House plan, several executive agencies will take action on methane, administration officials told reporters on a background call Monday.

The officials said the moves would protect the climate, create jobs, improve health and demonstrate U.S. leadership on climate at the critical global summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this week.

President Joe Biden also plans to announce a new U.S. initiative to conserve global forests while meeting Tuesday with world leaders at the U.N. conference, the officials said. Biden is scheduled to return to Washington Tuesday evening.

A third initiative is meant to spark private sector demand for clean energy. An official said the administration has won commitments from major corporations, including Apple, to buy certain amounts of clean energy.

Officials briefed reporters on the plans Monday on the condition that speakers were not named.

Potent methane

Biden’s agenda at the U.N. meeting has focused in part on methane, a greenhouse gas that comes from the oil and gas industry, landfills and agriculture.

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” an official on the call said. “This is the single best strategy to defeat the climate crisis that we have in the near term.”

By Monday evening in Glasgow, about 90 countries had signed onto a commitment to collectively reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade, the official said.

To show the U.S. interest in the issue, the administration would launch a government-wide initiative to increase methane reduction commitments.

As part of the U.S. methane plan, the Environmental Protection Agency would reinstate a methane storage and leakage rule.

The EPA rule goes further than a similar one established under President Barack Obama and later repealed by his successor, President Donald Trump, an administration official said.

In addition, the Interior Department will write a rule to address the same issue on public lands. That rule would cover methane venting, the release of gas into the atmosphere, an official said.

And the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an agency within the Department of Transportation, would put rules in place to require stronger monitoring by pipeline companies and better leak detection.

The Agriculture Department would also continue a “climate-smart” initiative to help farmers and ranchers operate in more climate-friendly ways, an official said.

Forest conservation 

Biden’s participation in Tuesday’s session of the conference will focus on a decade-long forest conservation initiative and private sector innovation, officials said.

The government-wide forest program would be a “first-of-its-kind” effort to conserve global forests and other ecosystems that naturally capture carbon, an official said.

The plan is built around four key components, the official said:

  • Incentivize forest conservation and forest landscape restoration;
  • Catalyze private sector investment for conservation;
  • Build data systems to enhance accountability;
  • Dedicate up to $9 billion of international climate funding for forest conservation.

Biden will also announce a “First Movers Coalition,” a group of private companies to make “demand commitments” for energy derived from clean fuel sources.

The coalition has 25 founding members, including “some of the largest companies in the world” that will each make commitments to purchase a certain amount of non-fossil-fuel energy.

Manchin objections

Biden spent his first full day at the conference calling for global urgency to confront the climate crisis. He pledged greater U.S. action and apologized for Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

But key moderate U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III, (D-W.Va.), brought renewed doubt to the fate of Biden’s climate agenda in Congress during a Monday news conference in which he said he wavered in his support for the current version of Biden’s spending plan, which includes $555 billion in climate initiatives.

“Throughout the last three months, I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in national debt that no one else seems to care about,” Manchin said in a statement. “Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation. Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy and the American people.”

Democrats need all their members to support the $1.75 trillion spending plan for it to pass the evenly divided Senate.

Officials on the call said the president was still working to win support on Capitol Hill.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter in the States Newsroom Washington bureau. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues as well as climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

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