Current Affairs

Reduce human-caused methane emissions by 45% to avoid worst of climate change: UN

  • Posted By
  • Categories
  • Published
    10th May, 2021
  • Context

    Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45 per cent to avoid the worst effects of climate change, as per a new United Nations report.

  • What are the key-findings of the Report?

    • Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster currently than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
    • Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
    • However, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels last year, according to the data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    • The report said this was a cause of concern as methane was an extremely powerful greenhouse gas.
    • It was responsible for about 30 per cent of warming since pre-industrial times.

    About the Report

    • Title: Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions
    • Released by: the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme
  • What does the Report suggest?

    • 45 per cent cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045.
    • It would also 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 broke down quickly.
  • What are the causes of methane emission?

    The most human-caused methane emissions came from three sectors: Fossil fuels, waste and agriculture.

    • Oil extraction: Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounted for 23 per cent of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector.
    • Coal mining: Coal mining accounted for 12 per cent of emissions.
    • Landfills and wastewater: Landfills and wastewater made up about 20 per cent of emissions in the waste sector. 
    • Livestock emission: In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation constituted for roughly 32 per cent and rice cultivation eight per cent of emissions.


    • Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas.
    • This greenhouse gas is emitted from a number of human and natural sources, including:
      • Extraction industries such as oil and natural gas development and coal mining
      • Industrial processes
      • Electricity generation
      • Livestock farming
    • Methane is produced when living things decompose; it's also in natural gas.
    • It persists for just a short time in the atmosphere - unlike carbon dioxide - but methane is a much more potent global warming gas than CO2.
  • Assessing mitigation potential

    The assessment found that the mitigation potential varied between countries and regions.

    • Europe: Europe had the greatest potential to curb methane emissions from farming, fossil fuel operations and waste management.
    • India: India had the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector.
    • China & Africa: China’s mitigation potential was best in coal production and livestock, while Africa’s was in livestock, followed by oil and gas.
      • The fossil fuel industry had the greatest potential for low-cost methane cuts. According to the report, 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.
  • What Governments worldwide are doing to reduce methane?

    Governments worldwide were aspiring to reduce methane. For instance-

    • The European Commission had adopted the European Union Methane Strategy in October 2020. It outlined measures to cut methane emissions in Europe and internationally.
  • What measures can be taken?

    • Improved disposing of sewage: The waste sector could cut its methane emissions by improving the disposal of sewage around the world.
    • Behavioural changes: Three behavioural changes — reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management and adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content) — could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades.
  • Conclusion

    In order to meet 1.5 degrees Celsius [of warming], global emissions must fall faster than annual Covid-level reductions. They have to compound.