The Veolia Institute Conference deliberations suggest five priority areas to mitigate methane emissions:
It is clear that reducing methane in the short-term is essential and its influence is big enough to challenge the practice of bundling it with CO2. A powerful driver for action would come from pricing it at 84 times carbon dioxide. As Gaël Giraud of Agence Française de Développement says “a single carbon market is an illusion, and is actually not useful. In reality you need different prices to incentivize a German engineer and a Malian farmer”. Similarly you can consider a different price for methane and for carbon dioxide emissions.
Of the three big sources of methane emissions, most rapid progress can be made in the oil and gas sector. It is the most concentrated, both physically and in terms of the companies operating in the sector. Capturing methane also happens to be one of its core businesses. Most measures will have positive returns, although perhaps not all meeting the very high hurdle rates of the industry. Pricing methane can help in this respect, as would more companies joining initiatives such as CCAC’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, as well as following IEA recommendations to set methane reduction goals and implement regulations to meet those goals.
The recovery of methane from landfills is technically doable and can be profitable. It requires putting a proper price on the methane emissions that are applicable at the landfill site. Assuming a waste collection chain in place, it also requires the ability to monetize the recovered methane by having clear ownership and a reasonable local power market. The solutions lie on the shelf and can readily be deployed at scale. In order to make the business model work, enabling policies and support mechanisms (such as feed-in tariffs) need to be put in place.
Agriculture has immense potential for reducing its methane emissions, but the distributed nature of the sources and the deeply embedded practices in supply and consumption imply that progress will be more gradual and multiple strategies will be required. Fortunately these exist, whether through CCAC or sector-focused organisation such FAO or IRRI. New financial instruments such as the World Bank’s PAF can further support progress.
Better data is needed, but it will likely require new forms of partnerships to gather it. In many sectors the individual emission factors are reasonably well understood, whether it concerns a gas well or a rice field. The uncertainty is often in the number of sources and in the patterns of behaviour that drive emissions in practice. Such studies will not only produce better data, but also insights into how practices can be changed.