Methane action: Tackling a warming planet


Despite what we know about the consequences of letting our planet warm, the world hasn’t done enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Now we are up against the clock. To limit climate change to 1.5°C, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions. In just eight years.

We need fast-acting solutions that bring deep cuts to emissions to have any chance of doing so. As the IPCC has clearly said, we need methane emission reductions.

Methane in the atmosphere is over 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty year time horizon. But it does not linger as long as carbon: just 10-12 years. So, actions to cut methane emissions can yield quick reductions in the rate of warming, while also delivering air quality benefits. 

In fact, the Global Methane Assessment, from UNEP and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, found that low cost-actions could almost halve anthropogenic methane emissions. Proven measures could shave 0.28 degrees Celsius from the forecasted rise in the planet’s average temperature by 2050. 

We have seen the world increasingly take this message on board.  

The US- and EU-led Global Methane Pledge is a welcome effort. Over 100 countries are aiming to knock 30 per cent off methane emissions in the fuel, agriculture and waste sectors by 2030. The fossil fuel industry has the highest potential for reductions, much of it at no net cost. Wasted methane could be used as natural gas to fuel power plants or homes. 


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UNEP, 5 November 2021