African Leaders Stand Ready to Act on Methane

Ahead of COP27 in Egypt, leaders from across Africa are working to slash methane emissions

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Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

Methane is extremely dangerous for the planet and for people. Eighty-six times as potent as carbon dioxide, methane is a powerful driver of climate change and is responsible for nearly half of global warming to date, as well as half a million premature deaths each year. Most methane emissions are caused by human activities, including in the agriculture, mining, oil and gas, and waste sectors.

This year, COP will take place in Africa for the first time, and as leaders across the continent look towards November, methane has been a focal point for calls to action. While Africa is only responsible for about two to three percent of global CO2 emissions, it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable region in the world. And methane emissions in Africa are rising rapidly, putting lives and ecosystems at risk.

Fortunately, because of methane’s short lifespan, reducing human-caused methane emissions is one of the fastest, most cost-effective strategies to reduce the rate of warming and contribute to global efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. The Global Methane Assessment, released by the CCAC and UNEP in 2021, shows that we already have the technologies to reduce emissions in Africa easily, cost effectively, and with immediate benefits for development, for human health, and for the planet. Reducing methane across the continent could avoid hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, reduce air pollution related hospitalizations, and avoid lost work hours due to heat. Addressing methane is essential to realize Africa’s Agenda 2063 and Air Quality Framework for Africa.

Several policy frameworks and structures to tackle methane already exist, including the Global Methane Pledge, which aims for a 30% global reduction by 2030. If the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) is achieved, the world could avoid more than 0.2°C of warming, save hundreds of thousands of pollution-related deaths per year, and avoid millions of tons of crop losses. Around 120 countries have to date pledged to reduce their methane emissions under the GMP, which was launched at COP26 in Glasgow.

Many African countries recognize the benefits of acting to reduce methane, and have already begun to address methane reduction through national policies and planning and by setting methane targets in their NDCs. At high-level international events in Africa over the last month, ministers and representatives from several countries have highlighted existing efforts to reduce methane and made public statements of support for further action.

At the end of August, leaders gathered in Gabon for Africa Climate Week, where the CCAC led a plenary session focused on highlighting opportunities to reduce methane emissions in the region to support national development objectives and contribute to achieving Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement. Leaders from the African Union Commission, Angola, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Morocco came together to speak alongside representatives from UNEP and the CCAC and discuss existing action on methane as well as future ambition from African countries.

Côte d’Ivoire, long-term CCAC partner and Global Methane Pledge signatory, has long been invested in reducing methane. The CCAC has helped with the development of several analyses related to short-lived climate pollutants in Côte d’Ivoire, including methane. A methane assessment conducted with partners including UNEP, CCAC, SEI, and the NDC Partnership indicates that if nothing is done, methane emissions will increase by 40% by 2030. However, In 2019, the country released a National Action Plan on Short-lived Climate Pollutants with the support of CCAC and SEI, which indicated a 34% methane reduction potential by 2030. In addition, Côte d'Ivoire's new NDC contains measures that would reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, including actions like recovering methane from solid and liquid household waste, recovering agricultural waste (including the management of livestock and pastures), and reducing methane leaks in the oil & gas sector.

Another longtime CCAC partner, Morocco recently finalized an SLCP action plan prioritizing methane mitigation, which is reflected in its updated NDC. The North African country has signed the GMP and is embarking on developing a national roadmap to guide future action on methane, especially in the waste sector. Future work on reducing methane emissions from waste, including the development of specific mitigation strategies, will develop from a current CCAC call for proposals. Host country Gabon will begin a new project with funding from the CCAC this year to build capacity and make the case for enhanced SLCP action.

Benin is also acting on methane emissions, specifically on the waste and agricultural sectors. The nation was among the countries who signed the Global Methane Pledge at COP26, and has collaborated with the CCAC on short-lived climate pollutants and methane assessments, which have helped increase ambition of their updated NDC, including on methane. Angola, which could reduce about 71% of their methane emissions with existing technology, is working to measure methane emissions from its oil and gas operations with the support of IMEO.

As the momentum for methane action continues across the continent, countries will need support. The African Development Bank, who will launch a study establishing a baseline for methane emissions in the region at COP27, has expressed hope that its Africa Climate Change Fund could be used to channel funds to countries to help tackle methane emissions.

Countries will also need technical support and data. In early September, at the Resumed eighteenth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Dakar, Senegal, Ministers of the Environment gathered to discuss securing people’s well-being and ensuring environmental sustainability in Africa. At both Africa Climate Week and AMCEN, the CCAC and partners including the African Union Commission and SEI presented preliminary findings from a forthcoming Africa integrated assessment on air pollution and climate change. This report, the first of its kind for Africa, will show how the continent can achieve key development goals, including the Agenda 2063, while providing cleaner air for its people and helping the global fight against climate change.

Additionally, at AMCEN, U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry announced a $5 million grant to the African Development Bank to support efforts to abate methane gas emissions across Africa. The CCAC promised an additional $1.2 million to tackle methane emissions in African countries.

“More than 25 countries on the continent have joined the Global Methane Pledge, a resounding level of support for the importance of methane in keeping 1.5 degrees within reach,” said Climate Envoy Kerry.

More than 25 countries on the continent have joined the Global Methane Pledge, a resounding level of support for the importance of methane in keeping 1.5 degrees within reach."
John Kerry
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

As leaders from around the world gather in Washington, D.C. this week for the Global Methane, Climate and Clean Air Forum, supporting Africa's ambitious efforts to reduce methane emissions must be top of the agenda.

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