Australia will not back a pledge, led by the European Union and the United States, to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 amid concerns over the impact on agriculture, said Thursday Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
However, New Zealand, another major emitter of methane through its dairy and sheep industries, could join two dozen other countries in signing the Global Methane Pledge.
“New Zealand is actively considering signing the pledge and will make a decision soon,” a spokesperson for Climate Change Minister James Shaw said.
The US and the EU announced their methane pledges in September, with the aim of rallying swift climate action before the start of the UN climate talks in Glasgow, which begin on Sunday.
Methane emissions – which come from natural gas, surface coal mines, cattle and sheep – are the second leading cause of climate change behind carbon dioxide (CO2). They trap more heat than CO2 emissions but decompose faster than CO2 in the atmosphere.
Australia this week adopted a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, after Morrison won support from the Rural-Focused National Party, the junior partner of the ruling conservative coalition.
“What we have said very clearly, however, is that we do not agree with the methane demand of 2030,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, denying that the refusal was intended to appease the Nationals.
National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce said separately that a 30% reduction in methane emissions would be a disaster for the beef, feedlot, dairy and coal mining industries.
“The only way to get your 30% reduction by 2030 in methane from 2020 levels would be to grab a gun and go out and start shooting your cattle,” Joyce told reporters.
New Zealand’s support for the methane commitment would be a big step as the dairy industry accounts for around 20% of the country’s exports.
Methane emissions from agriculture and waste account for over 40% of New Zealand’s global warming emissions and are largely to blame for a poor record in meeting the agreement’s targets on the climate.
Its dairy cattle count has nearly doubled to 6.3 million over the past 30 years to meet the country’s growing global demand for dairy products.
New Zealand has already set a target of reducing methane emissions from agriculture and waste by 24-47% from 2017 levels by 2050.