The US and EU initially announced the pledge in September, and it effectively amounts to a worldwide pact to cut methane emissions. One of the main goals of this agreement is to reduce methane emissions by up to 30% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels.
Methane is responsible for roughly half of the 1.0 degree Celsius net increase in global average temperature since the pre-industrial period, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment.
In September, a joint EU-US press release stated, “Rapidly reducing methane emissions is complementary to action on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.”
What exactly is methane?
According to the United Nations, methane, a greenhouse gas that is also a component of natural gas, is responsible for 25% of the current global warming. Its presence in the atmosphere raises the temperature of the Earth since it is a greenhouse gas.
Methane comes from a variety of places, including both human and natural sources. Landfills, oil and natural gas pipelines, agricultural operations, coal mining, wastewater treatment, and some industrial processes are also producers of methane, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The oil and gas industry is one of the greatest contributors to human-caused methane emissions. Human sources of methane (also known as anthropogenic sources) account for 60% of worldwide methane emissions, according to NASA. The combustion of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills, and agriculture all contribute to these emissions.
In India, for example, the Ministry of Coal urged state-owned coal miner Coal India Limited (CIL) to generate 2 MMSCB (million metric standard cubic metres) of coalbed methane (CBM) gas per day in the next 2 to 3 years in 2019.
CBM is collected from unconventional gas reservoirs, similar to shale gas, where gas is recovered straight from the rock that is the source of the gas (shale in case of shale gas and coal in case of CBM).
Methane is trapped below in coal and is retrieved by drilling into the seam and draining the groundwater. As a consequence of the pressure reduction, methane is released from the coal.
What is the significance of dealing with methane in terms of climate change?
When methane has a significantly shorter atmospheric lifespan (12 years compared to millennia for CO2), it is a lot more effective greenhouse gas simply because it absorbs more energy while in the atmosphere, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The UN adds in its factsheet on methane that it is a formidable pollutant with an 80-fold higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide, around 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. The average methane leak rate of 2.3 percent, according to the UN, “erodes most of the climatic benefit gas over coal.”
The IEA also claims that current technology can offset more than 75% of methane emissions, with up to 40% of this done at no extra cost.