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DUBAI: US Vice President Kamala Harris sought to claim the mantle of global climate leadership for the United States on Saturday in a speech to the COP28 summit, listing a slew of initiatives to cut emissions and harness renewable energy in the world’s largest oil and gas producer.

The address came on the second day of back-to-back speeches by world leaders at the conference in Dubai, where nearly 200 nations are hashing out an international approach to tackling global warming and debating whether fossil fuels should maintain a role in a future energy economy.

“Two years ago, President Joe Biden stood on stage at COP26 and made a declaration of ambition: The United States of America will once again be a global leader in the fight against the climate crisis,” Harris said. “Since then, the United States has turned ambition into action.”

She listed the more than $400 billion in subsidies provided by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature climate law, which has triggered a flood of clean energy investment. She also announced a new $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries combat global warming.

On the sidelines of the conference, the United States also unveiled new measures to curb emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations.

“Today, we are demonstrating through action how the world can and must meet this crisis,” Harris said.

The United States, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, has seen a surge in investment for clean energy projects ranging from solar farms to wind turbines and electric vehicle battery factories in recent years.

But it has also grown into the globe’s biggest producer of oil and gas - the main source of climate emissions - following a technology-driven drilling boom in the sprawling Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.

That awkward coincidence underscores one of COP28’s most contentious questions: Can the world’s response to climate change involve continuing use of fossil fuels?

Among the decisions nations must make will be whether to agree, for the first time, to gradually “phase out” fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources.

Harris told the conference that the United States supports

phasing out of “unabated coal” use, but she did not mention other fossil fuels.—Reuters

AFP adds: US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday announced it would tighten curbs on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, a critical step toward meeting its commitments to reduce the powerful greenhouse gas.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the announcement during the COP28 climate talks in the UAE, where the host country, the United States and China were set to hold talks on methane and other non-carbon dioxide gases.

Methane — which is potent but relatively short-lived — is a key target for countries wanting to slash emissions quickly and slow climate change. It is responsible for about one-third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today.

“The finalization of these methane standards addresses a glaring regulatory gap,” said Julie McNamara of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “For far too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to spew methane and serious health-harming pollutants without any limits — all while shoving the towering costs of that pollution onto people and the environment.”

The new standards would phase in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas produced by oil wells and require comprehensive monitoring of methane leaks from wells and compression stations.

It would also establish standards requiring reductions in emissions from equipment such as pumps, controllers, and storage tanks.

The United States initially proposed rules in 2021 and 2022, with the latest action building upon those after receiving a million public comments.

The EPA estimated it would prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, the equivalent of 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“In 2030 alone, the expected reductions are equivalent to 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — more than the annual emissions from 28 million gasoline cars,” the agency said in a statement.

In addition to methane, enacting the rule would reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause respiratory problems including asthma attacks, as well as toxic air pollutants such as benzene that can cause cancer.

The United States and the EU led a “Global Methane Pledge” at COP26 in Glasgow. It now has 111 country participants who have vowed to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. But an analysis of satellite data by environmental intelligence company Kayrros shows so far little progress among the signatories, save for Australia. US emissions are increasing.

McNamara said the new rules would not make fossil fuels “clean”. “For the health and well-being of people across the country, and the world, this must only be an intermediate step on the path to a sharp wind-down of fossil fuels,” she said.

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