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Biden administration announces new methane rules at COP28 climate summit

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday. Harris announced several new U.S. initiatives, including a $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The Biden administration rolled out a new final rule on methane emissions to coincide with the COP28 conference in Dubai Saturday as a new international decarbonization charter was also announced.

The Environmental Protection Agency's final rule is expected to prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions between 2024 to 2038 -- the equivalent of 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, the EPA said in a statement.

The rule is designed to achieve a nearly 80% reduction of methane emissions over what would expected without the rule "thanks to changes that strengthen provisions to limit wasteful, polluting flaring of natural gas and analytical updates that better capture the impacts of this rulemaking," administration officials said.

"On day one, President [Joe] Biden restored America's critical role as the global leader in confronting climate change, and today we've backed up that commitment with strong action, significantly slashing methane emissions and other air pollutants that endanger communities," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

The White House said the United States is seeking to enhance international cooperation to combat climate change at COP28, announcing it will also participate in a parallel conference addressing methane pollution alongside representatives from China and the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a series of U.S. climate initiatives, including a $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund.

"We must do more," she told leaders at the conference, but warned that "continued progress will not be possible without a fight.

"Around the world, there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress. Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation. Corporations that greenwash their climate inaction and lobby for billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies," Harris said.

The U.S. actions came as dozens of global energy companies agreed to the new Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter at COP28, which calls on the energy industry to reach net zero by 2050 and to "zero-out methane emissions."

Under the initiative announced by the UAE hosts and Saudi Arabia, 50 oil and gas companies have joined pledged "high-scale impact" and to "speed up climate action within the industry."

COP28 President Sultan Al Jabar said the launch of the charter "is a great first step -- and whilst many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time, I know that they and others, can and need to do more."

According to the organizers, the 50 companies who have agreed to the charter account for 40% of the world's oil production.