Energy & Environment

UN report: 40-45 percent cut to methane emissions could avert major warming

Cutting global methane emissions between 40 and 45 percent would prevent up to 0.3 degrees Celsius of planetary warming, according to a report released Thursday by the Global Methane Assessment from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

More than 90 percent of methane emissions worldwide from human sources are byproducts of the fossil fuel, agricultural and waste sectors, according to the report. It identifies fossil fuels as the industry with the potential for the largest benefit from targeted costs. Previous analyses have found mitigation costs average between $250 per metric ton to a net savings of $400 per metric ton, according to the report.

The report states the cuts would pay for themselves and, in addition to averting warming of 0.3 degrees Celsius by the 2040s, could prevent 255,000 deaths and 26 million tons of crop losses. Other potential benefits include preventing 73 billion work hours lost due to heat exposure and the aversion of 775,000 asthma-related hospitalizations.

In a briefing Thursday, Manish Bapna, interim president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, called targeted methane emissions reductions “one of the most cost-effective” emission reductions strategies, saying “85 percent [of reductions] have benefits that outweigh the costs.”

UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson cited improved leak prevention in the industrial sector as one area for emissions reductions, citing the provisions for leak prevention in a recent Canadian coronavirus relief package as a positive example.

Mitigation “creates jobs, it creates opportunities, it drives a new economy. … We can work with those that feed us, the farmers that are absolutely essential to our health and economy” on mitigation measures, she said.

Other proposed targeted measures in the report include recovery and use of vented gas, flooding of abandoned coal mines, improved management of solid waste, improved animal husbandry and ending the burning of agricultural crop residues.

“The Global Methane Assessment is one of the most substantive studies of global methane emissions we have ever seen. It makes clear what advocates have long-known: We can, and we must immediately reduce methane emissions,” Clean Air Task Force Super Pollutants Program Director Sarah Smith said in a statement.

“The opportunity is clear. The benefits are enormous. The time is now. We have no chance of meeting our global climate goals without immediately tackling methane emissions,” she added.

Smith called the report “the blueprint” for U.S. reductions of oil and gas emissions by up to 65 percent. President Biden has pledged to cut overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half compared to 2005 levels under the Paris Climate Agreement.

“As the U.S. in the world’s largest oil and gas producer, proactive moves from Congress and the EPA could become a springboard for action by other countries, and an entry point to addressing emissions from other sectors,” she said.

The report comes the week after the Senate’s Democratic majority, joined by three Republicans, voted to undo a Trump-era rule that weakened limitations on methane emissions.

Tags Climate change Global cooling Global warming Joe Biden Methane regulations United Nations
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