In India, there are no effective policies targeting methane emissions from rice cultivation and biomass burning
Only 13 per cent of methane emissions are covered by global methane mitigation policies, according to a new review study. The current policies to mitigate methane emissions are not stringent enough, the study published in Cell Press stated.
Methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years. It is responsible for around 30 per cent of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, according to the International Energy Agency. Agriculture, fossil fuels as well as solid waste and wastewater are the three major sources of methane.
“Methane emissions are increasing faster than at any time since the 1980s,” the paper highlighted.
Methane policies, according to the paper, are actions by governments that explicitly aims to monitor, prevent, or reduce methane emissions from anthropogenic sources.
The paper reviewed the number of policies and how stringent they are. “The number of policies is not always a good indicator of their stringency, Maria Olczak of the Queen Mary University of London told Down to Earth. The team also analysed the predicted or historical impact of these measures.
Currently, 281 policies are in place across sectors that release methane, including energy, waste, and agriculture. Of them, 255 are currently in force, researchers from Europe wrote in the study.
The researchers found 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, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia represented the remaining 10 per cent.
Their analysis showed that policies targeting fossil methane (coal, oil, and gas) are lower than biogenic methane (released by living organisms).
Almost half of them (49 per cent) target methane emissions from fossil fuels, and 42 per cent of policies target biogenic methane originating from waste and agriculture and waste sectors.
Of the 255 policies, 110 targeted emissions from production, gathering, and processing, while only six focused on end-use emissions, the analysis showed.
Further, fossil methane emissions are less stringent than the biogenic sources, according to the findings.
The waste policies were identified as being the most stringent, followed by oil and gas, agriculture and coal.
This trend has emerged despite readily available solutions to cut methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector. It is relatively easy to locate and fix methane leaks and reduce venting, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
During various stages of oil and natural gas development, operators burn associated gas or vent it into the atmosphere.
Fossil fuel and agricultural industries have opposed new policies as they could raise the cost of production for industries, Olczak explained.
Other factors contributing to less stringency of policies on fossil methane include the relative importance of those industries to national and subnational economies, energy and food security or rural poverty considerations (reduction of methane emissions from agriculture touches upon cultural issues, as food, is part of our culture), she explained.
Within biogenic sources, agriculture shows variations. Most policies target emissions from animal waste than enteric fermentation despite the former being a smaller source of emissions.
Enteric fermentation occurs in the digestive systems of ruminant animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels, which are the largest sources of methane emissions from agriculture.
This difference, according to the researchers, could be explained by the fact that technologies utilising manure for energy production are widely available while strategies to mitigate emissions from enteric fermentation are not.
The paper also highlighted that policies should focus on super emitters, which are facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure, typically in the fossil-fuel, waste, or agriculture sectors, that emit methane at high rates, according to NASA.
In India, there are no effective policies targeting methane emissions from rice cultivation and biomass burning (burning of crop waste residues such as rice paddy straw, the paper stated.
“While policies targeting biomass burning have quite broad coverage, their implementation remains challenging,” Olczak noted.
While, the Indian federal and state rules -- advisories, bans and incentive systems -- have been adopted since 2014, they have been only partially enforced, she added.
Also, the 1997 Coalbed methane policy was ineffective in incentivising coalbed methane production.
Coalbed methane is the methane produced during the coal formation process, which gets trapped on the surface of the coal in tiny pores and fractures.
In 1997, the Government of India designed a policy to extract Coalbed Methane from coal-bearing areas prior to the mining of coal.
At present, coalbed methane is not produced from any working or operational coal mines in the country.
“While reducing livestock or rice-production-related emissions is challenging, India can contribute by reducing emissions associated with coal production,” the expert added.
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