Climate Panel Seeks Creation of Methane Fund

A blue-ribbon panel of experts on Dec. 11 called for a crash program to reduce methane emissions as a way to slow the rapid warming of the Arctic, the Himalayas, and Earth.

The multinational panel, including experts on science, governance and finance from China, Mexico, Norway, European Union, and United States, urged creation of a Global Methane Fund to underwrite projects that could bring about a quick reduction in powerful methane emissions.

"Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas – second only to carbon dioxide in its overall impact," said Luisa Molina, Ph.D., a panel member and pollution expert presenting in Copenhagen.  "A rapid reduction in methane may be our best hope to blunt the effects of global warming in the near term."

Molina noted that reducing methane emissions could bring quick results because its warming lasts only 10 years, while CO2 warming already in place will continue for centuries. Accordingly, limiting methane "could be crucial" for regions that could reach critical thresholds or "tipping points" that affect the global climate system or large human populations, such as those in the Arctic and the Himalayas.

Panel member Ken Newcombe, formerly of the World Bank and Global Environment Facility, noted that technologies already exist to limit methane emissions. Indeed, hundreds of cleanup projects are shovel-ready. But many plans for controlling the pollutant have foundered because of frozen credit markets and the global financial crisis. "We need to thaw those markets -- and get those methane projects rolling," Newcombe said.

To do this, the blue-ribbon panel has proposed a new financing structure – a Global Methane Fund – to stimulate investments on methane abatement projects by providing a floor price for carbon credits from methane projects. The panel’s analysis suggests a small and nimble fund could be created from as little as $100 million pooled together from governments, foundations and private companies; yet leverage several billion in methane abatement.

"This fast-action fund could deliver real results – and quickly," said Newcombe, former head of carbon finance at the World Bank.  The panel said it should aim to tackle 50 percent of cost-effective global methane emission reductions by 2020.

Under the panel’s concept, the fund would be managed by a board of governors. Disbursed money would be repaid from the value derived from credits under a global cap-and-trade system.

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