Today, White House officials announced a plan to cut levels of methane emissions by 45 percent from 2012's levels, according to The New York Times. The changes should be implemented by 2025.
The announcement follows a series of decisions suggesting the US government has begun to take climate change seriously. In June, the administration proposed a plan to cut carbon pollution levels by 30 percent by 2030, which gives individual states until 2018 to submit policy changes to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The US and China, the world's largest producers of carbon emissions, reached a deal in November, in which the US would cut its emissions if China agreed to reach peak emission levels by 2030. Almost 200 countries followed suit in December, agreeing to limit fossil fuel emissions in a non-legally binding deal called the Lima Accord.
The goal is to cut methane emissions from oil and gas pollution by up to 45 percent by 2025
Methane accounts for just 9 percent of greenhouse gas pollution produced globally while carbon dioxide accounts for around 82 percent. But methane is important because it's 20 percent more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping radiation and speeding climate change. According to the EPA, around 60 percent of methane in the Earth's atmosphere comes from human activity.
David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the administration's proposed methane regulations "the biggest opportunity to curb climate change pollution that they haven't already seized."
Oil and gas companies are pushing back against the proposed regulations, which are mainly designed to curb methane leaks. They say the industry is already invested in solving the problem and the regulation will harm production. The Republican Party, which has historically been hostile to the environment, currently controls Congress, so getting regulations signed into law might be difficult. But the Obama Administration is going to bypass Congress through the Clean Air Act, which gives the EPA the authority to set limits on certain air pollutants coming from sources like chemical and utility plants.