Australia has snubbed one of the key global actions to come out of the UN climate change conference by bowing out of an international pledge to reduce methane emissions.
Overnight, the US and the European Union announced more than 100 countries have joined their bid to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
“I think we could probably go beyond that,” Mr Biden said during his address at the UN conference in Glasgow.
“We just announced this package at the [UN] General Assembly back in September, at the time [it]was mentioned just nine countries had signed on.
“Today, it’s approaching a hundred countries that are signing on,” he said.
Australia joins China, Russia, India and Iran – some of the biggest methane emitters — as those who refused to join the global push.
The US and EU believe reducing methane will be a powerful tool in the fight to tackle climate change, and the goal of ensuring the world does not heat more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Methane traps more heat but breaks down faster in the atmosphere than some other greenhouses gases, meaning reductions will have a more rapid impact on global warming, she said.
Australia’s Energy Minister Angus Taylor defended the country’s decision not to join the pact.
“Our focus is whole of economy, all gases,” Mr Taylor said at the COP26 conference.
“We’ve got a net-zero goal, we’re not setting sector specific targets, and we aren’t setting gas specific targets.
“It’s the entirety of gases that matters … that’s our specific goal.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was “a pity” the government did not sign up to the pact and described Australia’s position at COP26 as “disappointing”.
“We can’t keep on pretending that this a problem [climate change]we can push out to the future, this is happening right now,” he said in Glasgow.
“We are living with the reality of global warming now; we need to stop burning coal and gas and [we have]got to reduce methane emissions.”
Mr Turnbull said even Australia’s physical presence at COP 26 — a stall where countries highlight their work to fight climate change — was out of touch.
“The Australia stand has a gas company highlighted [Santos], apparently at the insistence of the energy minister … it’s a joke,” he said.
Just last week the Global Methane Pledge only had 60 signatories, highlighting the diplomacy going on at the conference.
Brazil – one of the world’s biggest methane emitters — is one of the new countries to sign up.
Rachel Kyte, an advisor to the UN Secretary-General, told the ABC the methane pledge was one of the significant actions to come out of the conference, and said Australia’s refusal to join was perplexing.
“This is the first time that there has been a commitment on methane,” the former World Bank Group Vice President said.
“The UK presidency put a lot of weight behind this, the US has played a very important role in the diplomacy.
“So as a developed economy [Australia] to not want to be on the leading edge of that, which seems to be self-defeating.”
She said Australia’s climate position was generally “really disappointing”.
“Nothing really new from the federal government, all of the progress that’s been made has been made because of states and cities in Australia now embracing really exciting technologies.”
Many world leaders depart the conference in the coming hours and will leave negotiators and diplomats to continue their work.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played as the conference’s host and said he remained “cautiously optimistic” that it could achieve enduring action.
He pointed to the multibillion-dollar pledge to end deforestation by 2030, as one of the COP’s successes.
“And this is part of a new global forest finance pledge of over – wait for it – of over $12 billion, amounting to the biggest collective commitment of public funds for forest and climate action in history,” he said.
“The leaders of the world may have left… but I can tell you that the eyes of the world… are on you.”