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World must cut methane emissions to avoid worst of climate change, UN says

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Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field. The primary component of natural gas is methane, which is odorless when it comes directly out of the gas well. In addition to methane, natural gas typically contains other hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, butane, and pentanes.

Orjan F. Ellingvag | Corbis News | Getty Images

A landmark United Nations report has declared that drastically cutting emissions of methane, a key component of natural gas, is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global climate change.

The report, published Thursday by the Climate and Clear Coalition and the U.N. Environment Programme, represents a shift in the worldwide conversation on how to best address the climate crisis, which has focused on longer-term carbon dioxide reduction.

Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon and doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down. This makes it a critical target for reducing global warming more quickly while simultaneously working to reduce other greenhouse gases.

More than half of global methane emissions come from oil and gas extraction in the fossil fuel industry; landfills and wastewater from the waste sector; and livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation in the agricultural sector.

The world could slash methane emissions by up to 45% this decade, or 180 million tons a year, according to the U.N.’s Global Methane Assessment. Such a target will avoid nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2045 and help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris climate accord.

The report comes after methane emissions surged to record highs last year despite worldwide lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, according to research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Methane emissions are also rising faster than ever since record keeping began in the 1980s.

“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Programme, said in a statement.

“The benefits to society, economies, and the environmental are numerous and far outweigh the cost,” Andersen said. “We need international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade.”

The fossil fuel industry has the greatest potential for reducing global emissions at little or negative cost by repairing leaks from oil and gas infrastructure, the report said. It added that companies who prevent leaks and capture methane could profit while curbing methane release.

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The report also pointed to the public health benefits of reducing methane, which is responsible for creating ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.

The 45% methane emissions reduction would prevent 255,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits and 73 billion hours of lost labor from extreme heat and 26 million tons of crop losses each year, according to the report.

“We must tackle emissions not only from the energy sector, but also from landfills, agriculture, and abandoned coal mines,” Jutta Paulus, a Green Party member of the European Parliament, said in a statement.

“Setting aside dedicated funds for these super-emitters will be well-invested money on the path to reach our climate targets in 2030,” Paulus said.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters also said that cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, agriculture and other human sources could slow global warming by as much as 30%.

Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23% of emissions while coal mining comprises roughly 12% of emissions, the report said. Agriculture and livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation account for about 32% of methane emissions.

CNBC has reached out to the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s largest trade group, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, a lobbying group for the U.S. agricultural sector, for comment on the U.N. report.

Countries such as Russia, France and Argentina called for curbing methane emissions at the global leaders’ climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden last month.

In the U.S., the Senate recently restored an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas fields by requiring companies to monitor and repair methane leaks from pipelines, storage facilities and wells.

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Biden and Putin speak after Geneva summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with US President Joe Biden prior to the US-Russia summit at the Villa La Grange, in Geneva on June 16, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and President Joe Biden agreed Wednesday that their respective ambassadors will return to their foreign posts, marking a resumption of diplomatic operations between the two adversaries that had been suspended since April.

Currently, neither Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, nor Washington’s ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan is stationed at his post.

They were both recalled this spring after Biden announced a fresh round of U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for a massive cyberattack last year on American government agencies. 

As a result, consular operations, visas and other diplomatic services in both countries effectively ground to a halt. This breakdown had a ripple effect on industries, families and aid groups that maintain ties in both countries.

The return of the ambassadors was one of the few concrete outcomes to emerge immediately after the two leaders met face to face in Geneva on Wednesday.

The summit began with a 90 minute meeting featuring only Biden, Putin and their top foreign policy aides, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Following the meeting, the two sides moved on to an expanded bilateral session with more aides. 

Officials had previously agreed that Putin would give the first press conference following the talks, and Biden would speak afterward.

Topping the agenda were nuclear arms control, cyberwarfare and security, Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program. 

Nuclear talks

In February, the Biden administration extended a crucial nuclear weapons treaty with Russia for five more years.

But the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, is currently the only arms control treaty in place between Washington and Moscow.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF treaty. Similar to the INF treaty, New START limits the nuclear arsenals of Washington and Moscow.

Putin and Biden have expressed a desire to reestablish a channel for conducting high-level nuclear talks, and both leaders recognize this as an area where the two countries have long maintained a dialogue despite their fractured relations on other issues.

The United States and Russia own the lion’s share of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Cybercrime

Biden also intended to warn Putin that unless he takes action to stop Russian-based cybercriminals, the United States will act instead, potentially disrupting Russia’s digital infrastructure.

Biden’s warning follows two targeted ransomware attacks in the past month that have directly impacted American citizens, both perpetrated by criminals believed to be based in Russia.

The first was an attack in early May on the operator of the nation’s largest gas pipeline, Colonial Pipeline. The attack forced the company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of fuel pipeline, leading to a disruption of nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply and causing gasoline shortages in the Southeast and airline disruptions.

The second attack, this one by a different Russian-based cybercriminal group, targeted JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier. The company ultimately paid $11 million in ransom, but not before it briefly shut down its entire U.S. operation.

Putin has denied any knowledge of the attacks, and recently suggested that if the cybercriminal groups were not breaking any Russian laws, then there was nothing he could do to stop them.

But U.S. officials said the idea that Putin was unaware of the attacks wasn’t credible, given the tight grip he maintains over Russia’s intelligence services, and its murkier, off-the-books network of contractors.

Biden also intended to press Putin on Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine, the poisoning and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the fate of two American former Marines in Russian custody. 

There was little expectation of a breakthrough from either side. Biden and Putin recently said they believe Russian-American relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War. 

Officials in Moscow and Washington spent months lowering expectations for the summit, and this week aides to both leaders said it was unlikely that any agreements would be reached in Geneva.

Yet from this nadir, the United States saw the summit as an opportunity to build a more stable and predictable relationship between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers. 

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Meme stocks are a ‘false market,’ sees shift in cinema industry

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The rise to prominence of so-called “meme stocks” — those favored by retail traders on forums such as Reddit — is creating “false markets” that should be actively avoided, according to Man Group CEO Luke Ellis.

Meme stocks such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment took markets by storm in January and have continued to grab headlines, as Reddit traders piled into previously unfavorable companies for brief periods of time and sent their share prices skyrocketing, causing a squeeze on several hedge funds with short positions against the stock. Shorting a stock involves borrowing it and selling it on with a view to buying it back at a lower price, hence profiting from a depreciation in the share price.

A recent CNBC analysis found that the typical upward run for an individual stock, often as a result of being championed by 10.5 million-member Reddit thread “Wallstreetbets,” lasted around nine days before its first big drop.

Speaking at CNBC’s Evolve Global Summit on Wednesday, Ellis said Man Group uses technological screening and natural language processing to identify the stocks being touted on sites such as Reddit and “avoid trading the names that they’re super excited about because they’re mostly creating false markets.”

Some of the surging share prices have translated into tangible results for the companies involved. Cinema chain AMC Entertainment recently saw its credit rating upgraded by S&P after using Reddit-fueled share offerings to raise capital and make a debt restructuring program less likely.

“I think it becomes really interesting when companies then take advantage of what are otherwise false share prices and issue stock, and I think we’re going to see a radical shift in the cinema industry because one of the cinema chains has been able to use the pumping of the stocks on ‘Wallstreetbets’ in order to go and raise capital,” Ellis said.

“That’s going to put them at a significant competitive advantage compared to other people in their industry.”

However, Ellis added that his FTSE 250-listed firm, which manages around $124 billion in assets, was interested in up to 10,000 stocks around the world and therefore found it “easy to avoid the ones where we think it’s a false market.”

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IMF chief says vaccine policy is the most important economic driver

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LONDON — Vaccine policy will trump all other economic polices this year as the world tries to recover from the coronavirus crisis, Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund said at CNBC’s Global Evolve Summit on Wednesday.

“Vaccine policy this year, probably next year, is going to be the most important economic policy, may beat even monetary and fiscal policy in terms of significance,” Georgieva told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore.

“A pre-requisite to bring the world to a sustained high level of growth everywhere is to vaccinate all people and that’s not yet done. We have [a] two track vaccination path right now; we have to overcome that,” she said.

The Fund said in April that the end of the crisis was “increasingly visible.” At the time, the institution raised its economic projections for the global economy based on higher vaccination rates and the ongoing monetary and fiscal stimulus.

As a result, the IMF projected a global GDP growth of 6% for this year, and of 4.4% next year. But the forecasts are heavily dependent on how vaccination programs evolve, including in low-income nations.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva delivers her curtain raiser speech previewing the key issues to be addressed in the Annual Meetings in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2019.

NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP | Getty Images

The IMF suggested last month that an investment of $50 billion should be spent to ensure a faster rollout of coronavirus vaccines, saying it could ultimately generate returns of $9 trillion for the global economy.

Georgieva said Wednesday that this plan is “the best return on investment in our lifetimes.”

The Fund also called for at least 40% of the global population to be vaccinated by the end of the year, and at least 60% by June 2022.

According to Our World in Data, only about 21% of the global population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In the United States, 52% of people received the first shot, in the United Kingdom that number stands at 62% and in the European Union at 45%.

As a way to boost the economic recovery post-pandemic, some parts of the world have developed a certificate that allows travelers to show their status of vaccination. In the European Union, for instance, the rollout of a Covid-19 digital certificate is underway, which shows if the individual has been vaccinated, has tested negative for the virus, or has some degree of immunization.

“Having a vaccination card that shows when you were vaccinated is a very useful tool. It is already being applied. I do believe that we need to look into applying that more broadly,” Georgieva said.

Some industries have suggested that a vaccination certificate should be used to attend large gatherings such as music concerts.

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