Credit: COP28 / Christopher Edralin
The COP28 climate summit that just wrapped up in Dubai included a unanimous commitment of the nearly 200 participating nations to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels this decade, to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 and, crucially, to slash methane emissions.
Scientists have made clear that our primary goal is to cut global methane emissions 30% by 2030. This greenhouse gas is 84-87 times more potent as a climate warmer than CO2. If we fail, the planet that we call home will experience “runaway climate change” – with wildfires, storms, droughts, glacial melting, and sea rise on a scale that threatens to destroy life as we have known it. What we see even now with our own eyes makes clear they are right. Global temperatures have risen 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and staying under a 1.5 degree rise is key. That means cutting all greenhouse gases 43% by 2030, and the crucial element is meeting the methane reduction goal.
The good news is that there is one commercially available strategy that can assuredly get us halfway to the 30% methane reduction goal by 2030: processing organic wastes through anaerobic digesters (ADs). Energy Vision’s latest report, Putting New York’s Organic Waste to Work, made clear that our home state can do that by building 300 ADs for an investment of $3.4 billion, largely from private capital and federal clean energy funding. ADs typically take 2-6 years to build and have an average payback period of 2-5 years. Is $3.4 billion too much to pay? No. It’s a pittance compared to the $32 billion in damage to our State caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
ADs can be built across the country, capturing the methane from our massive streams of organic waste that are continually being generated. And the renewable natural gas (RNG) produced using this methane is the best fuel option for three economic sectors that cannot electrify effectively or affordably: old homes, heavy industries, and heavy-duty vehicles.
As climate disasters mount and humanity increasingly mobilizes to take decisive action, our country must be able to proudly announce at the next COP summit the progress we are making toward meeting the 2030 methane climate goal. Whatever it costs will be well worth it compared to the costs of inaction.
We are deeply grateful to all of Energy Vision’s partners and supporters for enabling us to explore solutions to the climate crisis and in the process to have become a leading voice in identifying and advancing the anaerobic digestion strategy. While we will be assessing other fuels and energy options going forward, the role that ADs and RNG fuel can play right now is clear.
With best wishes for the holidays and for peace and progress in the new year.