Reduce human-caused methane emissions by 45% to avoid worst of climate change: Global methane assessment report 2021

      WHY IN NEWS:

Urgent steps are needed to reduce human-caused methane emissions, according to a UNEP report

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Air Pollution : Reports




  • The assessment highlights the critical role that cutting methane emissions, including from the fossil fuel industry, plays in slowing the rate of global warming.
  • Cutting human-caused methane by 45% this decade would keep warming beneath a threshold agreed by world leaders.

There are multiple benefits to acting including:

  • The rapid reduction of warming, which can help prevent dangerous climate tipping points.
  • Improved air quality that can save hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Improve food security by preventing crop losses.
  • Create jobs through mitigation efforts while increasing productivity through reduced heat stress.


The assessment was launched by Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) together with the United Nations Environment Programme.


SOURCES : GLOBAL METHANE ASSESSMENT REPORT 2021 : Current and projected anthropogenic methane emissions


Reducing human-caused methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective strategies to rapidly reduce the rate of warming and contribute significantly to global efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.

  • Available targeted methane measures, together with additional measures that contribute to priority development goals, can simultaneously reduce human-caused methane emissions by as much as 45 per cent, or 180 million tonnes a year (Mt/yr) by 2030.
  • This will avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s and complement all long-term climate change mitigation efforts.
  • It would also, each year, prevent 255 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 26 million tonnes of crop losses globally.


More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors:

  1. Fossil fuels (35 per cent of human-caused emissions)
  2. Waste (20 per cent) and
  3. Agriculture (40 per cent).


  • In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23 per cent, and coal mining accounts for 12 per cent of emissions.
  • In the waste sector, landfills and wastewater make up about 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.
  • In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation represent roughly 32 per cent, and rice cultivation 8 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.

Currently available measures could reduce emissions from these major sectors by approximately 180 Mt/yr, or as much as 45 per cent, by 2030.

  • This is a cost-effective step required to achieve the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1.5° C target.


  • Methane, a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) with an atmospheric lifetime of roughly a decade, is a potent greenhouse gas tens of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.
  • Methane’s atmospheric concentration has more than doubled since pre-industrial times and is second only to carbon dioxide in driving climate change during the industrial era.

  • Ozone attributable to anthropogenic methane emissions causes approximately half a million premature deaths per year globally and harms ecosystems and crops by suppressing growth and diminishing production.
  • The atmospheric concentration of methane is increasing faster now than at any time since the 1980s.
  • This assessment found that every million tonnes (Mt) of methane reduced: – prevents approximately 1 430 annual premature deaths due to ozone globally.


  • To reduce methane at the point of emission and along production/transmission lines.
  • There are also available targeted solutions in the waste and agricultural sectors.
  • Current targeted solutions alone, however, are not enough to achieve 1.5 o C consistent mitigation by 2030.
  • To achieve that, additional measures must be deployed, which could reduce 2030 methane emissions by another 15 per cent, about 60 Mt/yr.
  • The mitigation potential in different sectors varies between countries and regions.

  • In Africa from livestock followed by oil and gas; in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding China and India, it is coal and waste; in the Middle East, North America and Russia/Former Soviet Union it is from oil and gas; and in Latin America it is from the livestock subsector.


  • A majority of these major abatement potentials can be achieved at low cost, less than US$ 600 per tonne of methane, especially in the waste sector and the coal subsector in most regions and for the oil and gas subsector in North America.
  • Mitigation potential from all measures is expected to increase between 2030 and 2050, especially in the fossil fuel and waste sectors.

  • The structural changes that support a transformation to a zero-carbon society found in broader strategies will only achieve about 30 per cent of the methane reductions needed over the next 30 years.
  • Focused strategies specifically targeting methane need to be implemented to achieve sufficient methane mitigation.
  • At the same time, without relying on future massive-scale deployment of unproven carbon removal technologies, expansion of natural gas infrastructure and usage is incompatible with keeping warming to 1.5° C.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 


FOSSIL FUEL SECTOR (OIL, GAS, AND COAL)Upstream and downstream leak detection and repair
Recovery and utilization of vented gas: capture of associated gas from oil wells; blowdown capture; recovery and utilization of vented gas with vapor recovery units and well plungers; Installation of flares.
Improved control of unintended fugitive emissions from the production of oil and natural gas: regular inspections (and repair) of sites using instruments to detect leaks and emissions due to improper operations.
Coal mine methane management: pre-mining degasification and recovery and oxidation of ventilation air methane; flooding abandoned coal mines.
WASTE SECTORSolid waste management: (residential) source separation with recycling/reuse; no landfill of organic waste; treatment with energy recovery or collection and flaring of landfill gas; (industrial) recycling or treatment with energy recovery; no landfill of organic waste.
Wastewater treatment: (residential) upgrade to secondary/tertiary anaerobic treatment with biogas recovery and utilization; wastewater treatment plants instead of latrines and disposal; (industrial) upgrade to two-stage treatment, i.e., anaerobic treatment with biogas recovery followed by aerobic treatment.
AGRICULTURAL SECTORImprove animal health and husbandry: reduce enteric fermentation in cattle, sheep and other ruminants through: feed changes and supplements; selective breeding to improve productivity and animal health/fertility
Livestock manure management: treatment in biogas digesters; decreased manure storage time; improve manure storage covering; improve housing systems and bedding; manure acidification.
Rice paddies: improved water management or alternate flooding/drainage wetland rice; direct wet seeding; phosphogypsum and sulphate addition to inhibit methanogenesis; composting rice straw; use of alternative hybrids species.
Agricultural crop residues: prevent burning of agricultural crop residues.


FOSSIL FUEL SECTOR (OIL, GAS, AND COAL)Renewables for power generation: use incentives to foster expanded use of wind, solar, and hydro power for electricity generation.
Improved energy efficiency and energy demand management: (residential) use incentives to improve the energy efficiency of household appliances, buildings, lighting, heating and cooling, encourage rooftop solar installations; (industrial) introduce ambitious energy efficiency standards for industry; improve consumer awareness of cleaner energy options.
WASTE SECTORReduced consumer waste and improved waste separation and recycling, improved sustainable consumption.
AGRICULTURAL SECTORReduced food waste and loss: strengthen and expand food cold chains; consumer education campaigns; facilitate donation of unsold or excess food.
Adoption of healthier diets: decrease intake where consumption of ruminant products is above recommended guidelines.



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