methane emissions


Despite the UK government’s recent efforts to address methane emissions, analysis has revealed that the country is still far from meeting its international commitments in this regard.

The government’s initiatives, announced during the “green day” of energy announcements, included plans to introduce methane-suppressing feed for livestock by 2025 and to eliminate biodegradable waste going to landfill by 2028. However, these measures fall short of the target of reducing the UK’s methane emissions by 30% by 2030, as agreed under the global methane pledge signed before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, according to analysis conducted by the Green Alliance think tank.

The Green Alliance study indicates that the government’s policies would only result in a 14% reduction in UK methane emissions by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. One significant measure to cut methane emissions, an immediate ban on routine flaring and venting from gas and oil drilling platforms in the North Sea, was rejected by ministers. Both the review of the UK’s net-zero strategy by former energy minister Chris Skidmore and parliamentary committees had recommended implementing such a ban from 2025, but the practice will be allowed to continue until at least 2030.

Flaring and venting activities offshore result in the wastage of enough gas to power over 750,000 homes annually, along with additional gas from undetected leaks that could power at least 100,000 more homes. The Green Alliance suggests several measures that could help the UK achieve a reduction of over 40% in methane emissions by 2030, in line with the methane pledge and beyond. These include advancing the ban on flaring and venting, mandating landfill operators to capture methane at a higher rate, expediting the repair of leaky gas mains, and promoting a faster adoption of methane-suppressing feed for livestock.

Liam Hardy, of the Green Alliance, said: “Existing measures to tackle UK methane emissions are wholly inadequate, but it’s not too late to turn things around. The government should be able to put forward a plan to cut methane emissions by more than 43%. This would help get us closer to net zero and put the UK in a clear position of leadership ahead of international climate negotiations later this year.”

Furthermore, the UK is also lagging behind in its overall climate commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the government’s own analysis. Over 100 countries have joined the global methane pledge, recognizing the urgent need to address methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with approximately 80 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide, albeit with a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere. Scientists widely agree that significant methane reduction is one of the fastest and most effective ways to mitigate the severe impacts of the climate crisis and could contribute to reducing global temperature increases by up to 0.5°C within a few decades. However, global methane emissions continue to rise, and many countries have been inaccurately reporting their methane output.

With the aid of satellite imaging, a clearer understanding of global emissions is emerging. Recent reports by The Guardian have unveiled the existence of over 1,000 “super-emitting” methane sites worldwide. It is crucial for countries to intensify efforts to address methane emissions and accurately monitor and report their output to effectively combat climate change.

The UK government disputed the Green Alliance findings. “This analysis is completely wrong. The UK has adopted early and ambitious measures to tackle methane emissions. Already this means that between 1990 and 2020 UK methane emissions fell by 62% – more than any other OECD country,” a spokesperson said.

“We recognise the urgency to do more, which is why we are going further and faster to reduce emissions in line with the net zero strategy and carbon budgets, and the global methane pledge, a global reduction target.”



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