Global Assessment: Urgent steps must be taken to reduce methane emissions this decade
A Global Methane Assessment released today by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that human-caused methane emissions can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade. Such reductions would avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by 2045 and would be consistent with keeping the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5˚C) within reach.
The assessment, for the first time, integrates the climate and air pollution costs and benefits from methane mitigation. Because methane is a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone (smog), a powerful climate forcer and dangerous air pollutant, a 45 per cent reduction would prevent 260 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. The benefits to society, economies, and the environment are numerous and far outweigh the cost. We need international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
Rick Duke, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change, said: “Methane accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and, now that the world is acting to phase down hydrofluorocarbons through the Montreal Protocol, it is by far the top priority short-lived climate pollutant that we need to tackle to keep 1.5˚C within reach. The United States is committed to driving down methane emissions both at home and globally—through measures like research and development, standards to control fossil and landfill methane, and incentives to address agricultural methane. We look forward to continued partnership with the CCAC on this crucial climate priority.”
This is a concern because methane is a an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, responsible for about 30 per cent of warming since pre-industrial times. The good news is that unlike CO2 which stays in the atmosphere for 100s of years, methane starts breaking down quickly, with most of it gone after a decade. This means cutting methane emissions now can rapidly reduce the rate of warming in the near-term.