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Methane Flaring

Groundbreaking New U.N. Report Shows Reducing Global Methane Emissions Would Have Major Climate Benefit at Virtually No Cost

May 6, 2021 Work Area: Super Pollutants

A 40-45% methane cut by 2030 would avoid nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the 2040s. 

BOSTON – The newly released Global Methane Assessment from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) makes clear that significantly cutting methane emissions is “absolutely critical, hugely beneficial, and eminently achievable,” according to Clean Air Task Force Super Pollutants Program Director Sarah Smith.   

The report, released today at a virtual event hosted by the CCAC and UNEP, finds that more than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels, waste, and agriculture, and that currently available measures could reduce emissions from these sectors by as much as 45 percent by 2030. These cuts to methane emissions would cost little, would pay for themselves quickly, and could avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the 2040s. In addition these actions would avoid 73 billion lost work hours due to heat exposure while also reducing harmful air pollution and so preventing 255,000 deaths, 26 million tons of crop losses, and 775,000 asthma related hospital visits.  

Clean Air Task Force played a role in reviewing the report, with CATF Super Pollutants program director Sarah Smith serving on the board of directors of the CCAC. 

Smith continued: 

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. 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.  

On a national level, many countries have set ambitious climate targets, and the success of each will hinge on governments’ ability to take action on methane. We’ve created the blueprint for the U.S. to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 65 percent, and we urge President Biden, the EPA, and Congress to use our road map to guide the way. 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. 

Jonathan Banks, Clean Air Task Force International Methane Director said: 

“This study is very timely, with the European Commission currently writing its methane legislation. It’s an opportunity to set the gold standard on methane emissions at home and abroad – a standard that could save thousands of lives and billions of Euros.”  

Methane is a harmful super pollutant that warms the planet more than 80 times more than carbon dioxide does over the first 20 years. It accounts for a quarter of today’s global warming, and its levels in the atmosphere are surging. Clean Air Task Force has long advocated for more stringent regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and a recent CATF study found that the U.S. can cut methane emissions from the sector by up to 65 percent with currently available technologies.  

In addition to continuing to push for strong methane standards, CATF has also recently co-hosted a regional conference on methane capture in Lima, Peru, which attracted government officials from Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia, as well as representatives from each country’s state-owned oil company. In Colombia, we recently crafted a technical paper on global best practices for methane reduction, providing detailed guidance on how to set a methane emissions baseline and maintain an accurate emissions inventory. 

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