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Most Methane Mitigation Policies Insufficient in Addressing Emissions, Study Finds

There are no constructive policies focussing on methane emissions from rice cultivation and biomass burning in India.

Shivangi Rai
Enteric fermentation occurs in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels, which are the largest sources of methane emissions from agriculture. (Photo Courtesy: Unsplash)) (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash)
Enteric fermentation occurs in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels, which are the largest sources of methane emissions from agriculture. (Photo Courtesy: Unsplash)) (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash)

Methane mitigation measures only address 13% of methane emissions worldwide, according to a recent research study published in Cell Press. The current rules to reduce methane emissions are not strict enough.

Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the International Energy Agency, it is to blame for around 30% of the increase in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. Methane comes from three main sources: fossil fuels, solid waste, and wastewater as well as agriculture.

As per the research, methane emissions are increasing faster if compaired with 1980s.

In addition to this, Methane policies are actions by governments that explicitly focus on monitoring, preventing, or reducing methane emissions from anthropogenic sources.

The number of policies has been reviewed by the research based on strictness level.  “The number of policies is not always a good indicator of their stringency, Maria Olczak of the Queen Mary University of London told the media. The team also analyzed the forecasted or past effects of these measures.

Presently, 281 policies are in place across sectors that release methane, including energy, agriculture, and waste. Of them, 255 are presently in force, as written by researchers from Europe in the research.

The researchers discovered that 90 per cent of identified national policies were from three regions: North America (39 per cent), Europe (30 per cent), and Asia Pacific (21 per cent)

Central and South America, Africa, Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East represented the remaining 10 per cent.

Their analysis showed that policies focusing on fossil methane (oil, coal, and gas) are lesser than biogenic methane (released by living organisms).

Nearly half of them (49%) target fossil fuel-related methane emissions, while 42% target biogenic methane coming from the waste, agricultural, and waste sectors.

The study revealed that just six of the 255 policies focused on end-use emissions, whereas 110 of the policies addressed emissions from production, gathering, and processing.

The results also show that fossil methane emissions are less restrictive than those from biogenic sources.

The most restrictive regulations were found in garbage, than oil and gas, agriculture, and coal.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, this drift has risen despite readily available answers to minimize methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector. It is comparatively simple to locate and fix methane leaks and reduce venting.

During several stages of oil and natural gas development, operators burn associated gas or vent it into the atmosphere.

Olczak clarified that fossil fuel and agricultural industries have opposed new policies as they could increase the value of production for industries.

The relative importance of those industries to national and subnational economies, energy and food security, or rural poverty considerations (reducing methane emissions from agriculture touches on cultural issues because food is a part of our culture), she described are other variables that contribute to less strict policies on fossil methane.

Agriculture exhibits differences within biogenic sources.

The main producers of methane emissions from agriculture are ruminant animals which include buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep, and camels, whose digestive tracts undergo enteric fermentation.

As per the researchers, this difference could be explained by the fact that technologies utilizing manure for energy production are extensively available whereas planning to mitigate emissions from enteric fermentation are not.

Also, the research underlined that policies should aim at super emitters, which are equipment, facilities, and other infrastructures, typically in the waste, fossil-fuel, or agriculture sectors, which emit methane at higher rates, according to NASA.

India’s Policies

The research stated that in India, there are no effective policies focusing on methane emissions from rice cultivation and biomass burning.

Olczak noted that while policies targeting biomass burning have quite wider coverage, their execution remains challenging.

To this, she added that while, the Indian federal and state rules, advisories, bans, and incentive systems have been adopted since 2014, they have been only partially enforced.

Also, the 1997 Coalbed methane policy was ineffective in incentivizing coalbed methane production.

Methane created during the coal formation process and trapped in minute pores and cracks on the coal's surface is known as coalbed methane.

Prior to mining coal, the Indian government fabricated a programme in 1997 to remove coalbed methane from coal-bearing regions.

Currently, no active or operational coal mines in the country produce coalbed methane.

The expert also added that while minimizing livestock or rice-production-related emissions is challenging, India can contribute by minimizing emissions associated with coal production.

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