Global Methane Assessment


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    Recently, the Climate and Clean Air (CCA) Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the report titled “Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions”.

    Reasons for Focusing on Methane

    • Methane is the second biggest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.
    • It is 84 times more potent than carbon but it does not 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 (GHGs).
    • Most human-caused methane emissions came from three sectors, namely:
      • Fossil Fuels: Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounted for 23 per cent of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector. Coal mining accounted for 12 per cent of emissions.
        • During mining, fractured coal seams and surrounding strata emit methane into the atmosphere.
      • Waste: Landfills and wastewater made up about 20 per cent of emissions in the waste sector.
      • Agriculture: Livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation constituted for roughly 32 per cent and rice cultivation eight per cent of emissions.
        • Methane is produced in the digestive system of ruminant (cows, water buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels) animals.
        • This gas is then released through these animals’ flatulence, when they belch or through their manure.
    • Reduced methane would prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as 25 million tonnes of crop losses.
    • Cutting methane emissions can rapidly reduce the rate of warming in the near-term as the gas breaks down quickly.
    • India currently has the world’s largest cattle population and is a significant producer of rice and because of this, methane accounts for approximately 20 per cent of India’s total emissions.

    Major Findings 

    • Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster currently than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
    • Methane in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2020, which is a cause of concern as it is an extremely powerful GHG and is responsible for about 30 per cent of warming since pre-industrial times.
      • However, carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions.
    • The mitigation potential varies between countries and regions.
      • Europe has the greatest potential to curb methane emissions from farming, fossil fuel operations and waste management.
      • India has the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector.
      • China’s mitigation potential is best in coal production and livestock.
      • Africa’s mitigation potential is in livestock, followed by oil and gas.
    • Sector wise, the fossil fuel industry had the greatest potential for low-cost methane cuts.
      • Up to 80 per cent of measures in the oil and gas industry could be implemented at negative or low cost.
      • About 60 per cent of methane cuts in this sector could make money as reducing leaks would make more gas available for sale.

    (Image Courtesy: CCAC)

    Recommendations and Suggestions

    • Human-caused emissions must be cut by 45 per cent as it would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045 and help limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris climate accord.
    • The waste sector can cut its methane emissions by improving the disposal of sewage around the world.
    • Behavioural changes can reduce methane emissions by 65-80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades.
      • These lifestyle changes include reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management and adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content).
    • The benefits to society, economies, and the environment are numerous and far outweigh the cost so there is a need for international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade.

    Initiatives for Methane Emissions Reduction

    • Global Methane Initiative: It is an international public-private partnership focused on reducing barriers to the recovery and use of methane as a clean energy source. It provides technical support to deploy methane-to-energy projects around the world.
    • European Union Methane Strategy: It was adopted by the European Commission in October 2020, which outlined measures to cut methane emissions in Europe and internationally.
    • India’s GHG Programme: It is an industry-led voluntary framework aiming to help Indian companies monitor progress towards measurement and management of GHG emissions.
    • India-US Clean Energy Agenda 2030: It was launched at the Leaders Summit on Climate, held in April 2021. At the Summit, Russia, France and Argentina called for curbing methane emissions.
    Climate and Clean Air (CCA) Coalition

    • It is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations committed to protecting the climate and improving air quality through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
    • Vision for 2030: An atmosphere that enables people and the planet to thrive, a stabilized climate with warming limited to 1.5ºC and drastically reduced air pollution.
    • Its operations are supported by a secretariat that sits within the UNEP.
    • Headquarters: Paris, France.
    • It is financed through a multi-donor trust fund administered through the UNEP.
      • While governments are the core of the Coalition’s funding, contributions from the private sector and global community are encouraged.

    United Nations Environment Programme

    • It is the leading global environmental authority established in 1972.
    • It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system.
    • Headquarters: Nairobi, Kenya.
    • Major Reports: Emission Gap Report, Global Environment Outlook, Frontiers, Invest into Healthy Planet.
    • Major Campaigns: Beat Pollution, UN75, World Environment Day, Wild for Life, etc.

    Source: DTE