There is scope to slash methane emissions

The US-EU-led move to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas – up to a third by the end of this decade – at the climate summit at Glasgow is notable and forward-looking. The warming potential of methane is 80-85 times that of carbon dioxide. Intensive users of natural gas should undertake to cut methane emissions. India is a partner country for the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), but is understandably chary of formal near-term pledges, given our large agricultural and livestock sector. Yet, we do need to explore the real possibility of negative costs – measures that quickly save money and resources – by way of methane-emission reductions.

The fact is that water usage in our paddy fields is two-to-four times efficiency norms. And, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has reportedly developed bovine feeds that both reduce methane belching and increase milk output. Besides, we ought to be tapping methane from agricultural and municipal waste for use as fuel. The plan to set up 5,000 biogas plants surely needs expediting. We need transition from burning crop residue to digesting them into usable methane, to rev up useful energy instead. As much as a quarter of global warming today is due to methane emissions, the share in India is 14%. Leakage from gas pipes is a major source (95% methane is labelled natural gas), as are that from gas-extraction points; gas flaring in the major consumption centres needs to be actively plugged.

UN estimates suggest that well over 50% of the targeted measures have negative costs, implying fast payback. Globally, 32% of anthropogenic methane emission is from livestock; but since the Indian diet is primarily plant-based, our emission reduction has to focus on leakage, paddy cultivation and productive use of waste.


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