Urgent action required to reduce methane emissions

07 May 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘The good news is that most of the required actions bring not only climate benefits but also health and financial benefits, and all technology needed is already available.’

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) have released a Global Methane Assessment which they say indicates that there is an urgent need reduce methane emissions.

According to the report, ‘human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster than at any time since record keeping began in the 1980s.’ Despite the covid-19 induced reduction on carbon dioxide emissions; according to data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the amount of methane in the atmosphere ‘shot up to record levels.’

Methane is said to be responsible for about 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times. Most methane generated by human activity comes from fossil fuels, waste and agriculture. In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation represent some 32% of emissions and rice cultivation represents 8%.

On tackling the emissions, the report indicates that methane from human activity can be reduced by up to 45% this decade. Such a reduction would have the impact of avoiding around 0.3oC of global warming by 2045, in keeping with the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5oC. The report also asserts that cutting methane would prevent some 260 000 premature deaths and 25 million tonnes of crops losses each year.

Identifying measures that specifically target methane, the assessment says that emissions can be reduced 30% by 2030. Most the measures are in the fossil fuel sector where it is said to be ‘relatively easy to locate and fix methane leaks and reduce venting.’ There are also targeted measures that can be used in the waste and agricultural sectors.  The assessment says that around 60% of the targeted measures are low cost and 50% have negative costs, meaning companies make money from taking action.

Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Science at Duke University, North Caroline, US, who chaired the assessment for the CCAC said: ‘To achieve global climate goals, we must reduce methane emission while also urgently reducing carbon emissions. The good news is that most of the required actions bring not only climate benefits but also health and financial benefits, and all the technology needed is already available.’

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