China, the world’s biggest producer of methane (a powerful global warming gas), has played an “opening move” before the UN Climate Summit by promising to track and reduce harmful emission from the gas.
In a Tuesday statement, China announced that it would take “more forceful” measures to combat methane with just three weeks until policymakers and leaders from around the world meet in Dubai to attend COP28.
It fell short, however, by not defining definitive emission reduction targets and remaining vague on timelines.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s statement coincided with Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, concluding a four-day US trip to meet with John Kerry.
In the document, China said it would improve its monitoring and surveillance systems for methane by 2030. This will cover all sectors including energy, agriculture and waste.
One veteran climate policy diplomat said that the move was more of an “opening play” than a final proposal, and laid the foundation for future discussions in advance of the Dubai Summit.
China is not a signatory to the global methane agreement signed in Glasgow two years ago by over 150 countries. The US and Europe are leading the charge to reduce methane emission by 30% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels. Russia and India did not sign the agreement either.
Methane accounts for approximately one-third the increase in global temperatures since the industrial age. Reducing it is considered the best way to curb global warming on a short term basis.
Agriculture is the largest contributor to human-induced methane emissions, followed closely by the energy industry, which includes the production of coal and oil, as well as natural gas, biofuels, and other fuels.
China is a country that struggles to reduce its emissions, including those from waste and agriculture. It produces the majority of the energy it needs from coal. Methane produced during mining contributes to this.
The company has stated that it will also strive to reduce the flaring (or the burning of gas in conjunction with oil and gas extraction) to zero by 2030.
Byford Tsang is a senior policy advisor at E3G, an independent think tank that focuses on climate policy. He said the publication of China’s plan to improve their systems was “long overdue, but a vital step forward” when it comes to addressing one China’s major greenhouse gases.
It will take some time to determine whether the plan can deliver significant efforts in the absence quantified targets.
Sultan al-Jaber said that China’s announcement is a “crucial move for global climate action”.