In May 2021, an assessment report was released on global methane levels. This was conducted by CCAC, Climate and Clean Air Coalition and UNEP, United Nations Environment Program. It showed that methane emissions could be reduced, by about 45 percent, in a decade if certain measures are taken.
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Why Reduce Emissions
This is probably a question that is so evident that most people do not raise it anymore. With emission reductions, global warming can be reduced. At the recent Paris Climate Agreement, a goal was set to limit temperature rise in the global scene to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2045. For that, emission reductions are necessary. If reductions can be achieved by about 45 percent in a decade, then it would help reduce global warming by 0.3 degrees Celsius. It would then be in keeping with the climate agreement goals.
Cost and Benefits of Methane Mitigation
The assessment conducted integrates costs and benefits analysis as well. Methane is the main element in forming ground-level smog or ozone. It is also a dangerous pollutant for the air and a climate force as well. If a 45 percent reduction is obtained, it can help prevent premature deaths up to 260,000 in number as well as asthma attacks up to 775000 in number. It can also reduce lost labour costs due to increased heat which accounts for 73 billion hours. Crop losses every year, about 25 million tonnes, can be attributed to the same factor as well.
If methane is cut down, it can help slow down climate change in the coming 25 years. It would also complement efforts taken to reduce levels of carbon dioxide. The benefits that it would give societies, the environment and the economies would be enormous. It would also outweigh the costs involved. Hence, it is imperative that countries cooperate in reducing methane emissions as much as possible in the coming decade.
Why Focus on Methane Emissions?
Methane emissions are mostly caused by humans and come from waste, fossil fuels and agriculture. In the fuel sector, processes such as extraction, processing and distribution include 23 percent of such emissions. Coal mining contributes 12 percent, while wastewater and landfills contribute 20 percent. Livestock emissions such as from enteric fermentation and manure contribute about 32 percent. Also, rice cultivation releases about 8 percent of this gas into the air.
While there are other greenhouse gases such as CO2, which also pollute the atmosphere and stay on for several decades, methane breaks down quickly. Hence, this pollutant’s traces can be removed within a decade. For that reason, if methane emissions can be controlled, it can rapidly reduce climate warming and show results in the near term.
Targeted Measures That Can Work
Since the Covid-19 slowdown of the world economy in 2020, it did help reduce CO2 emissions in the air. However, methane emissions have gone up at record levels. The assessment committee is looking at tackling emission concerns by focusing on:
- Energy sectors
- Abandoned coal mine sites
Concerned companies or organizations are asked to put aside some funds for the super emitters. It would be money well invested on the path for reaching the climate targets by 2030. With targeted measures, it would be possible to reduce emissions by about 30 percent. These include locating and fixing methane leaks as well as reducing venting.
Targeted measures can also be cost-effective. Most of the measures are of low cost, about 60 percent of them. Also, 50 percent of targeted measures involve negative costs. That means they will help companies to save money, especially in the oil and gas sectors. When methane is captured and leaks prevented, it can help add revenue instead when the gas is released into the air.
Besides targeting methane specifically, there has to be a general shift towards renewable energy. Ensuring efficiency in energy usage in commercial and residential sectors will help reduce emissions of polluting gases. It can further bring down gas emissions in the air, by about 15 percent, by the year 2030. However, these general measures are harder to implement.
As is evident, to bring down gas emissions and global warming, targeting methane level reductions can help bring in effects in the short term. At the same time, wider measures towards controlling carbon dioxide emissions will take longer but have a more widespread impact.