Vast majority of global methane emissions go unregulated, says new study

By Grace van Deelen

Governments around the world are failing to effectively regulate and mitigate harmful emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with a climate warming potential more than 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide, according to research published Friday. 

Only 13% of global emissions from methane are covered by existing public mitigation policies, the researchers reported in the journal One Earth.

“Significant and underexplored [methane] mitigation opportunities exist,” the authors wrote.

The research comes on the heels of a report issued Thursday from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) showing that methane emissions from just 1,100 US landfills have a climate-warming effect equivalent to the yearly emissions of 66 million gas-powered vehicles.

Methane makes up about 12% of US greenhouse gas emissions stemming from human activities, including agricultural operations, fossil fuel extraction and use, waste management practices, and decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills. Agriculture is the largest single US source of methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Global methane emissions are currently rising faster than at any point since the 1980s. To try to keep global warming from exceeding the warming limit of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit set by the Paris Agreement, global methane emissions must be reduced by at least 40-45% of 2020 levels by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.