Global Sustainability Agenda #22: Why cutting methane emissions now can unlock significant near-term benefits for climate action?

Global Sustainability Agenda #22: Why cutting methane emissions now can unlock significant near-term benefits for climate action?

Global Sustainability Reality

Climate change is delaying world clocks’ need for a ‘negative leap second’ (NPR)

Climate Change Is Altering the Earth’s Rotation, Affecting Global Timekeeping (e360)

Landfill methane emissions are even worse than we thought, with a new study finding they’re 40% higher than reported (Fortune)

A Potent Planet-Warming Gas is Seeping Out of US Landfills at Rates Higher Than Previously Thought, Scientists Say (News)

In Indonesia, deforestation is intensifying disasters from severe weather and climate change (AP News)

Planting trees in arid & semi-desert forests failed as carbon offset strategy in Australia (Money Control)

Startups aim to curb climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the ocean—not the air (Science)

Global Sustainability Business Impact

A First Step Toward a Global Price on Carbon (NY Times)

Energy Transition: Challenge Of Financing And Investing In A $6 Trillion Megatrend (Forbes)

U.S. Policymakers Must Adjust To Energy Transition Wake-Up Call (Forbes)

BlackRock’s Fink Says Energy Transition Remains an Investment “Mega Force” Despite Political Pushback (ESG Today)

Powering the Sustainable Development Goals (Seforall)

A Resurrection Of Trust For Carbon Offsets Is Needed To Meet Net Zero (Forbes)

Japan aims at international impact in nature positive strategy (Carbon Pulse)

Rethinking global clean energy transition: Empowering grassroots for a sustainable future (First Post)

EU seeks to set global rules on sustainability for businesses (Arab News)

The US tightens greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles (The Verge)

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $4 Billion in Tax Credits to Build Clean Energy Supply Chain, Drive Investments, and Lower Costs in Energy Communities (

World Bank Group Launches Renewable Energy Initiative to Enhance Energy Security and Affordability in Europe and Central Asia (World Bank)

How America’s sustainability backlash is causing a transatlantic divide (Fortune)

The path forward

The global increase in anthropogenic methane emissions, primarily from sectors like fossil fuel production, agriculture, and waste, has contributed to significant global warming. To mitigate this, the Global Methane Pledge (GMP)—launched at COP26 by the European Union and the United States—aimed for a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. However, achieving this goal poses challenges, including the lack of specific implementation details and targets across sectors and countries.

The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Specifically, NDCs outline each country’s actions to reduce its emissions and address climate change, including targets and policies, as well as any support needed from the international community to achieve these goals. Each country determines these contributions based on national circumstances, capabilities, and priorities.

Today, over 155 countries joined the Pledge and agreed to take voluntary actions to contribute to a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030 as a global target.

However, an assessment made in 168 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) analyzing 476 mitigation actions across major methane-emitting sectors identified that most sectors had mitigation measures for methane emissions, but only by a minority of countries. Notably, fossil fuel production and waste sectors showed higher inclusion rates compared to agriculture. Fossil fuel production contributed the most to potential reductions (55%), followed by waste (27%) and agriculture (16%). However, NDCs often lack quantitative targets and timelines for methane-focused mitigation measures.

To achieve the GMP, existing measures must be made more ambitious and additional measures not currently in NDCs shall be included.

As countries update their NDCs, they should explicitly state implementation targets for such measures, ideally close to their maximum technical potential, to ensure alignment with the GMP goal.

Increasing methane mitigation ambition, especially in major emitting sectors and non-GMP countries, is essential for achieving the GMP and aligning with broader climate goals. This requires explicit targets in NDCs, consideration of additional measures, and international support for implementation, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Specifically, focusing on sectors like oil and gas production and coal mining could significantly enhance methane emission reductions. Agricultural mitigation measures, especially on-farm and behavior change measures, have the potential to further reduce emissions but require more widespread commitment. Similarly, addressing ‘missed opportunity’ sectors, where no mitigation measures are included in NDCs, could significantly contribute to global methane reduction efforts, particularly in large emitting countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Summary of global methane emissions in 2020, the Global Methane Pledge target, the methane emissions emitted in sectors and countries with mitigation measures (NDC Measures Coverage), and the reduction in global methane emissions estimated to be achievable (Roadmap)

Sanitation Sector

Sanitation and wastewater management systems, which constitute the “waste” sector by the GMP, contribute significantly to global methane emissions. Recent research estimates that wastewater management accounts for 7% and other sanitation activities for 5%. However, current greenhouse gas inventories likely underestimate methane emissions from sanitation due to limited data, especially from systems without sewers.

The prevalence of non-sewer sanitation systems in low- and middle-income countries, where most population growth occurs and where basic sanitation services are lacking, presents a concerning trend. Efforts to achieve universal safely managed sanitation coverage under Sustainable Development Goal 6.2 could substantially decrease methane emissions. This underscores the need for investments in climate-smart sanitation to mitigate methane emissions and enhance resilience to climate change impacts.

Despite its significant methane emissions, methane reduction policies and the NDC have overlooked the sanitation sectors. Only a small percentage of NDCs include actions for methane mitigation in sanitation, often focusing solely on capturing biogas from centralized treatment plants.

Various solutions exist to mitigate methane emissions from sanitation, including methane capture from treatment plants, utilization of treated sludge in agriculture, and active management of pits and tanks. However, three main barriers hinder scaling up these solutions: underestimation of methane emissions, sanitation emissions being hidden within the waste sector, and underexploitation of available solutions due to lack of funding. Collaboration among scientists, policymakers, funders, and investors is crucial to addressing these barriers. Scientists need to collect more empirical data to understand methane emissions from sanitation better and evaluate mitigation strategies. Policymakers should integrate climate-smart sanitation strategies into NDCs, National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and methane action plans. Funders and investors should allocate funds for research, technology development, and scaling up mitigation solutions within the sanitation sector.

Therefore, optimizing sanitation management to align with public health, environmental, and climate objectives is crucial. Addressing methane emissions from sanitation is feasible and impactful, but concerted action and investment are needed to fully realize this opportunity.

Thus, practical recommendations for enhancing methane mitigation ambition through updates to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) include: (a) identifying and committing to mitigation measures in major methane-emitting sectors currently omitted from mitigation commitments, (b) reporting methane mitigation measures with clarity and transparency, including clear implementation targets and timelines to understand the quantity of methane reduced, and (c) ensuring that these targets are set as close as possible to their technical maximum methane mitigation potential.

Implementing these recommendations in future NDC updates can serve as the basis for progressively tracking progress on methane mitigation actions and the fulfillment of the Global Methane Pledge.

Beatriz Canamary

Beatriz Canamary is a consultant in Sustainable and Resilient Business, Doctor and Professor in Business, Civil Engineer, specialized in Mergers and Acquisitions from the Harvard Business School, and mom of triplets. Today she is dedicated to the effective application of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Multinationals.

She is an ESG enthusiast and makes it possible to carry out sustainable projects, such as energy transition and net-zero carbon emissions. She has +15 years of expertise in large infrastructure projects.

Member of the World Economic Forum, Academy of International Business and Academy of Economics and Finance.