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UNEP report on methane emissions

Context:

Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions report was released by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution Control and Management, Environmental Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the Global Methane Assessment report
  2. Why is Methane Harmful?
  3. Steps taken in India to control Methane Emission
  4. Way Forwards (According to the report)

Highlights of the Global Methane Assessment report

  • Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster currently than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
  • Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2020. This is a cause of concern as methane was responsible for about 30%of warming since pre-industrial times.
  • Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounted for 23% of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector. Coal mining accounted for 12% of emissions.
  • Landfills and wastewater made up about 20% of emissions in the waste sector.
  • In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation constituted for roughly 32% and rice cultivation 8% of emissions.

Why is Methane Harmful?

  • Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon, consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4) – it is also flammable, and is used as a fuel worldwide apart from being a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon and doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down. This makes it a critical target for reducing global warming more quickly while simultaneously working to reduce other greenhouse gases.
  • It is responsible for creating ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.

Steps taken in India to control Methane Emission

  1. India shifted from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms – which is a step towards cleaner vehicle emissions and lesser methane pollution.
  2. Central Salt & Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) in collaboration with the country’s three leading institutes developed a seaweed-based animal feed additive formulation that aims to reduce methane emissions from cattle and also boost immunity of cattle and poultry.
  3. The India GHG Program led by WRI India (non-profit organization), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is an industry-led voluntary framework to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was launched in 2008 which aims at creating awareness among the representatives of the public, different agencies of the government, scientists, industry and the communities on the threat posed by climate change and the steps to counter it.

Way Forwards (According to the report)

  • Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45% to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
  • Such a cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045. It would also prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as 25 million tonnes of crop losses. However, cutting methane emissions can rapidly reduce the rate of warming in the near-term as the gas broke down quickly.
  • Fossil fuel industry had the greatest potential for low-cost methane cuts, up to 80% of measures in the oil and gas industry could be implemented at negative or low cost.
  • About 60% of methane cuts in Oil, coal and gas extraction sector could make money as reducing leaks would make more gas available for sale.
  • The waste sector could cut its methane emissions by improving the disposal of sewage around the world.
  • Three behavioural changes — reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management and adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content) — could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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