In 2018, the world’s largest oil and gas companies committed to reducing the proportion of methane released from their operations by a fifth to less than a quarter of the gas they sell by 2025 – a goal that the companies claim last year have achieved – with the aim of achieving 0.2 percent.
Minimizing methane from landfills is just as important as reducing methane emissions from livestock. However, emission reduction technologies are less safe in these areas. In particular, livestock releases are likely to account for a growing proportion of future methane emissions, unless there are technological breakthroughs or the world’s leading meat consumers change their diet.
Overall, more than half of global methane emissions come from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels, landfill and other wastes, and livestock and other agriculture. Methane also seeps from wetlands and other natural sources.
The UN report also highlights how reducing methane emissions can bring significant public health benefits. Methane makes an important contribution to the formation of ozone near the earth’s surface. It is known that ozone increases the risk of hospitalization and early death. It also reduces crop yields and forest growth.
Reducing methane emissions would prevent more than 250,000 premature deaths and more than 750,000 asthma-related hospital visits each year from 2030, the report said. The lower emissions would also prevent more than 70 billion man hours from being lost to extreme heat and more than 25 million tons of crop losses per year.
The downside is that without action, methane emissions can help bring the world to the brink of catastrophic climate change. If this option is not enabled, methane emissions are expected to continue to rise until at least 2040, the UN report predicts.
“We’re still going wildly in the wrong direction, but we can change that very, very quickly,” said Dr. Shindell. “We could all use a climate success story.”