A US and EU-led pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% has been backed by more than 80 countries.

Methane is the world’s second-largest contributor to climate change among greenhouse gases, and cuts to emissions are thought to be one of the best short term solutions to the climate crisis.

The gas is produced naturally, such as from livestock farming or wetland and bogs, but the measures put forward by US President Joe Biden will target methane leaking from American oil and gas rigs.

Methane is a powerful although short-lived greenhouse gas, which is also produced during fossil fuel extraction.

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Although scores of countries have signed up to the pledge, some of the world’s top methane emitters - China, Russia and India - are not among them.

However, the move by the US and EU could prevent millions of tonnes of methane from entering the atmosphere.

Half of the world’s top 30 methane emitters, including the US, EU, Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Vietnam and Canada, have joined the pledge.

Biden, speaking at the summit, thanked those who have signed the “game-changing commitment”.

The National:

Von der Leyen, left, Biden, middle, and Boris Johnson, right, at COP26

He said: “Together we are committing to collectively reduce our methane by 30% by 2030, and I think we could probably go beyond that.

“Today it’s approaching 100 countries that are signing on. That’s nearly half the global methane emissions… It’s going to make a huge difference.”

Biden said this would not only help fight climate change but also improve health, cut crop losses and reduce pollution.

He added: “One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade to keep 1.5 degrees is reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible.

“It’s one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half the warming we are experiencing today.”

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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she is “proud and happy and grateful that over 80 countries have signed up”.

She added: “Methane is 80 times more global warming than CO2. And today, global methane emissions grow faster than at any time in the past.

“So cutting back on methane emissions is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming and keep 1.5C. It is the lowest hanging fruit.”

The National:

Ursula Von der Leyen said cutting methane emissions is key

Prof Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, said: "Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas and rapid cuts would make an important difference.

“It has contributed about 0.5C to warming to-date and although it doesn't stay as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release it is 80 times more powerful at heating.

“Methane is an easy win in terms of climate action: cuts using existing technologies and adopting different land management practices could reduce warming by 0.25C by 2050 at little or no cost, and help to keep 1.5 alive.”