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Biden administration proposes rules to cut climate-warming methane emissions


At the U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, President Biden is going to make an announcement about methane gas. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas, and if you've recently turned up the heat or taken a hot shower or cooked on a gas stove, the president's upcoming announcement is relevant to your interests. NPR's Dan Charles is in Glasgow today. Good morning, Dan.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What is the president's big announcement?

CHARLES: It is basically a big attempt to stop so much methane from leaking into the atmosphere. See; when you burn methane, it releases carbon dioxide. But methane by itself is also a really powerful greenhouse gas. It's the second-most important heat-trapping gas there is behind carbon dioxide. And some climate scientists think we ought to be focusing a lot more on it.

KING: Dan, from where is methane leaking into the air?

CHARLES: It is coming from oil and gas wells, but also, there are methane emissions from landfills, from manure pits at hog farms and dairies. But also some of the gas pipes that go from house to house and cities are deteriorating, and they are also leaking gas. There was a scientific study recently which estimated that about 2.5% of all the gas delivered to the Boston area actually leaked into the atmosphere.

KING: OK, so what does the U.S. do to fix this problem? What's the president suggesting?

CHARLES: It is a whole mix of things because there's a whole mix of sources. The administration is proposing expanded regulations to get companies to prevent leaks from oil and gas operations. There will be financial incentives to get hog farms and dairies to capture methane from the animal manure. And separate from that, there is an international effort, too, the Global Methane Pledge. Some 90 countries have agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30% over the next decade.

KING: Interesting stuff. All right, there was also a rather big, rather surprising announcement from India's prime minister at this summit. What did he say?

CHARLES: It was part of this parade of world leaders giving speeches yesterday. And Prime Minister Modi used his to announce several new things, including that India will reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2070.

KING: 2070 - one of the biggest economies in the world. A lot of countries, including the U.S., are saying they're going to do it by 2050. How significant is India's announcement then?

CHARLES: Well, a lot of people are saying this is much more significant than it looks. India is the third-biggest greenhouse emitter in the world. Its economic growth is built on huge deposits of coal. Ulka Kelkar, climate director for World Resources Institute in India, says this is a huge shift because the idea that net-zero emissions were even possible was not common in India.

ULKA KELKAR: Just six months ago, nobody was talking about net-zero. Now it's on the front pages of business newspapers and on prime-time national television.

CHARLES: But there's other things, too. He laid out some near-term targets. By 2030, he said, they'll have a huge amount of clean electricity generation installed - 50% of the energy will come from renewable sources. It remains to be seen exactly what's included in those numbers. But Kelkar says it clearly means a big expansion of wind and solar power.

KING: And is Modi's announcement on both those fronts being taken seriously? Because lots of promises get made at these summits.

CHARLES: Right. Well, so environmental advocates are impressed by this because it is so specific, right? So he's saying within 10 years we will do this thing, and it's a lot more specific than, for instance, Australia, which is saying, you know, we'll be carbon neutral in 2050, which sounds great, but they are not mentioning any specific policy changes that would actually get them there.

KING: I see. Thank you, Dan.

CHARLES: Thank you.

KING: NPR's Dan Charles in Glasgow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dan Charles is NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.
Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.