COP28: Turkmenistan joins Global Methane Pledge

COP28: Turkmenistan joins Global Methane Pledge
In the build-up to COP28, the Turkmen media have been reporting on telephone calls between President Serdar Berdimuhamedov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. /
By Will Conroy in Prague December 1, 2023

Turkmenistan has joined the Global Methane Pledge, Turkmen media reported on December 1, following an address given by the country’s president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, to the UN COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

TurkmenPortal cited TDH as quoting Berdimuhamedov as saying: “Today, from this high podium, Turkmenistan officially announces its accession to the Global Methane Pledge.”

Under the US- and EU-led Pledge, more than 150 countries have since 2021 pledged to slash their methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030—but few have stepped forward with concrete plans on how they will achieve this.

As bne IntelliNews recapped on November 28, planet-heating methane is pouring out of the gas-rich remote “hermit nation” of Turkmenistan at an alarming and immense rate. Satellite pictures prove it. Rarely responsive to the outside world, the Turkmen regime has until now been accused of fiddling while the world burns. Working to persuade the Turkmens to sign the Pledge, the Biden administration, after spotting the opportunity for a diplomatic coup, deployed big guns including US top diplomat Antony Blinken and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, to lay on the charm while at the same time attempting to give super-emitter Turkmenistan a kick in the gas.

There have been growing hopes that the big gathering in the UAE will produce real action in clamping down on methane, the second-most prominent greenhouse gas. The Turkmen commitment will be prized as an encouraging step forward.

The United Arab Emirates' COP28 presidency has called for formalised efforts in tackling methane. Part of that will also be securing commitments from independent and national oil and gas companies to eliminate routine flaring by 2030. An early indication of a breakthrough in this area came this week when the UAE’s Dragon Oil said it would transition to zero gas flaring in Turkmenistan by 2027.

Though methane has more warming potential than carbon dioxide, it breaks down in the atmosphere within just years compared with decades for CO2. That means that an effective crackdown on methane emissions could have a relatively quick impact on limiting climate change and, what’s more, plugging leaks coming from sites such as pipelines and gas fields is not a tall order—it amounts to low-hanging fruit.

Analysts and lobbyists are wary that even after COP28, not much action will result from the Pledge. "If it's just a pledge [with no sign of action], it will land with a thump," Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's former climate envoy, told Reuters earlier this week, adding: "The UAE needs to commit companies and countries to sit down and negotiate a binding agreement to X-out methane."

French climate tech company Kayrros, which at COP28 is launching an open-access live “Methane Map” for better tracking of emissions, identified 1,005 methane super-emitter events worldwide in 2022, with 559 from oil and gas fields, 105 from coal mines and 340 from waste sites such as landfills. 

Turkmenistan had the highest number of super-emitting events – some 184.

“They vent like crazy,” Christian Lelong at Kayrros told the Guardian.

Scientists have also revealed at least 55 “methane bombs” around the world, namely fossil fuel extraction sites where gas leaks from future production would emit methane levels equivalent to 30 years of all US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Turkmenistan, which has the sixth-highest gas reserves in the world, is home to one of these major bombs (Yolotan South), giving it a place in a top 10 that also includes Texas, Louisiana, Canada, Russia (with three major methane bombs) and Qatar.