Methane Motion in 2022: Project Climate’s 12 months In Review
A brief summary of efforts to tackle the super pollutant.
Co-authored with Gil Damon, CLEE Methane Research Fellow.
2022 proved to be a giant 12 months for methane—the flammable gas that accounts for 30 percent of Earth’s anthropogenic warming. Methane forms when organic material decomposes in sealed spaces and is released within the agriculture, waste disposal, and energy sectors. When it comes to warming, methane is a staggering 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide, over a 20 12 months period. Nevertheless, because this gas has a comparatively short atmospheric life, cutting methane emissions today can rapidly reduce the speed of warming, buying more time to finish the energy transition. Along with its climate impact, methane harms human health as a primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone and sometimes co-occurs with carcinogens like benzene.
Much of the 2022 momentum has grown from last 12 months’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), which brought the Global Methane Pledge. At COP 26, over 100 countries joined this initiative, promising to chop global methane emissions by no less than 30 percent by 2030, as in comparison with 2020 levels. Within the last 12 months, one other 50 have joined.
Despite substantial progress within the policy sphere, methane continues to spew into the atmosphere at an astonishing rate. In its latest annual greenhouse gas index, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that methane emissions are climbing faster than at another time since observations began in 1983, with an atmospheric methane burden that’s 162 percent greater than pre-industrial levels. Meanwhile, an exhaustive 2022 report underscored the danger of climate tipping points—temperature thresholds at which changes within the climate system turn into cascading and irreversible. Separate research shows that methane motion is vital to avoiding these runaway events.
In 2022, the Project Climate initiative on the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment (CLEE) worked to speed up a series of promising solutions in the highest three methane-producing sectors: agriculture, energy, and waste disposal.
Here, we discuss a brief choice of methane developments and Project Climate activities from the past 12 months.
Major Developments Across Methane-Emitting Sectors
- Inflation Reduction Act targets methane: The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the most important climate investment in American history, and it places a powerful deal with methane across sectors. For the oil and gas industry, it targets methane with the first-ever federal greenhouse gas emissions fee. In waste management and agriculture, it offers strong incentives to capture methane to be used as a fuel. Meanwhile, the IRA supports a slate of research initiatives to higher detect and measure methane emissions. Taken together, these actions could help bring about an economy that not only reduces the discharge of methane but in addition puts this gas to productive use.
- California invests in methane monitoring satellite program: Governor Newsom boosted methane research and monitoring through a $100 million investment to expand the variety of satellites launched for methane observations. The brand new Methane Monitoring and Accountability Program is a blueprint to observe and track methane emission sources through distant satellite monitoring. This can be achieved through collaboration with public-private partnership organizations, allowing California to discover the source of emissions and hold emitters accountable.
- California Scoping Plan maintains deal with methane: In December, the California Air Resources Board adopted the 2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality, placing a major emphasis on methane. It highlighted the state’s existing methane goals set by Senate Bill 32 (2016) of reducing methane emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 through the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy.
Project Climate Highlights:
- Latest resources for policymakers: In October, CLEE’s Project Climate unveiled a web based repository to assist policymakers design methane strategies: MethaneResources.org. This site, which is in beta version, includes the most recent scientific research together with methane strategies from all over the world. At its center is a series of “Methane Frameworks,” which outline core principles for methane reduction in each sector.
- Advancing methane motion for cities and states: Because many methane-emitting operations (e.g., farms, landfills, and a few energy operations) are governed on the state and native level, subnational governments can play a key role in reducing emissions. To higher equip policymakers to incentivize methane motion, Project Climate has developed systems to assist governments determine emissions baselines, compile emitter data, implement emissions reduction plans, and promote education about methane. As a part of this effort, Project Climate’s Ken Alex and Gil Damon engaged in high-level discussions on the UN-sponsored Global Methane Forum.
Oil and Gas Sector: About 30% of U.S. methane emissions.
- Oil and gas methane fee introduced through Inflation Reduction Act: The IRA introduced a charge on methane released by the best emitting oil and gas facilities. by establishing the Methane Emissions Reduction Program. This represents the first federal fee on any greenhouse gas. At the identical time, the IRA will provide as much as $1.55 billion to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to offer technical assistance for methane abatement within the oil and gas sector.
- Federal motion on leaky, abandoned oil wells: As a part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, $4.7 billion was allocated for grants to plug and cap leaky oil and gas wells. These “orphan wells” have been deserted, meaning that no party is accountable for their decommissioning process. Hundreds of thousands of Americans live inside a mile of an orphaned oil and gas well. States have indicated that there are over 10,000 high-priority well sites across the country ready for immediate plugging efforts, with greater than 120,000 documented wells eligible for funding. The Department of the Interior awarded an initial $560 million to 24 states to start plugging wells and increasing monitoring. California has developed a draft Orphan Well Screening Methodology to prioritize orphan wells which might be closer to communities or water resources.
- Latest rule targets flaring and venting on federal lands: The Department of Interior has a proposed rule to limit the flaring and venting of natural gas on public lands, as Professor Dan Farber has discussed. The proposed regulations would replace the Bureau of Land Management’s current requirements governing venting and flaring, that are greater than 4 a long time old.
- Continued efforts to scale back methane gas from buildings: Each the federal government and California advanced constructing decarbonization standards and goals. In early December, the White House announced the first-ever Federal Constructing Performance Standard, setting the goal of reducing energy use in buildings by 30 percent by 2030. Electrifying appliances will remove methane gas heaters, stoves, and dryers. Latest research found that gas stoves and other appliances routinely leak unburned gas even after they are off, emitting methane and dangerous toxic air pollutants like benzene and toluene.
- Germany and Western Europe reduce reliance on Russian methane gas: When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, European countries needed to contend with their heavy reliance on Russian energy. For instance, Russian gas provided the majority of Germany’s supply. In response, Western European nations have enacted measures to reduce on energy usage, expanded renewable energy resources, and built Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals to receive gas from the U.S. and other countries. For now, gas reserves are nearly full. Nevertheless, next winter may bring a greater challenge, as European Union countries must refill their entire gas supplies without Russia.
Project Climate Highlights:
- Latest report geared toward reducing residential gas infrastructure: In early 2022, CLEE and the UCLA Emmett Center convened an authority panel of industry professionals, utilities, energy regulators, reasonably priced housing providers, and environmental justice advocates to debate barriers to deploying electric heat pumps to switch gas heaters and appliances, This discussion provided the premise for Hot, Cold & Clean, a report with recommendations to support the equitable and reasonably priced adoption of warmth pump retrofits in existing buildings.
- Lively participation in California’s orphan well policy: CLEE’s Project Climate provided a public comment letter to the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) on their Draft Orphan Well Methodology, advocating for (1) prioritization of wells leaking the best levels of methane, (2) reducing costs as a part of constructing public support, and (3) supporting environmental justice communities and their need for transparency.
- Convening stakeholders to advance motion and recent technologies: CLEE’s Ross Zelen organized and moderated a panel entitled “Meeting the Methane Moment” on the VerdeXchange Conference in June 2022 featuring CalGEM Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk in addition to representatives from GHGSat and Project Canary. The conversation focused on market-based opportunities for eliminating wasted methane gas, utilizing recent drone and satellite monitoring technologies, and creating job opportunities in California communities.
Landfills and Waste Management Sector: About 17% of U.S. methane emissions.
- The Inflation Reduction Act adds waste sector incentives: For landfill and wastewater operations, the IRA is more carrot than stick. It offers strong tax credits for low-carbon fuels, including those who may end up from captured landfill gas, and offers each tax breaks and grants to construct recent landfill gas collection projects. Moreover, the bill brings hefty research grants for added landfill emissions research and will bring investment in projects that improve air quality for fenceline communities through the National Green Bank.
- Satellites goal landfills: In 2022, landfills received renewed scrutiny from satellites, which showed that methane was released at the next rate than previously thought. An August study, for example, checked out 4 major cities within the Global South and located that emissions were 1.4 to 2.6 times higher than models showed. Next 12 months’s launch of several methane-sensing satellites will enable similar observations to be made with greater accuracy and regularity.
- Promising low-cost landfill covers: While the perfect technique to reduce landfill methane is to keep food and other organics out, cities have also employed sophisticated systems to capture or burn landfill methane. But lately, researchers have developed one other solution: a living cover for landfills. Biocovers—which consist of compost spread across a landfill’s surface—contain methane-gobbling microorganisms that frequently reduce methane emissions by well over 60 percent. While this was thought by many to be a short lived solution, a May study from the Technical University of Denmark found that landfill biocovers retain their efficacy after no less than seven years, suggesting that this solution may hold promise for low-cost methane reduction.
Project Climate Highlights:
- A recent cross-Berkeley landfill partnership: In November, Project Climate partnered with leading researchers at Berkeley’s Department of Engineering and the Goldman School of Public Policy to start a series of grant proposals. Through this unique interdisciplinary collaboration, we aim to develop low-cost landfill monitoring systems, then use them to create financial incentives for activities that reduce landfill emissions. We hope that this research ultimately contributes to an offset market that may reward methane actions at landfills worldwide.
Agricultural and Livestock Sector: About 35% of U.S. methane emissions.
- Revisiting the manure digester paradigm: For 20 years, the dominant practice for reducing methane from cattle manure has been to capture it using “anaerobic digesters.”. A set of economic incentives has led to greater than 100 digesters in California. In 2022, a spread of voices, including environmental justice advocates and U.S. Senators, expressed opposition to the present digester paradigm. Vermont Law School’s Rethinking Manure Biogas assessed the restrictions and pitfalls of a digester-first approach. In March 2022, the California Air Resources Board published an evaluation showing that the state is way behind its goal of achieving its 2030 goal of reducing dairy and livestock methane by 40%, in comparison with 2013 levels.
- Feed additives approved within the European Union, Chile, and Brazil, amongst others: Enteric fermentation takes place within the digestive systems of animals, generating emissions from animal burps. Enteric emissions are the one largest source of direct greenhouse gas emissions in beef and dairy value chains. In 2022, feed additives, which might meaningfully reduce emissions, were approved within the European Union countries, in addition to Chile and Brazil. In Latest Zealand, the federal government is studying the impact of feeding cows “Kowbucha” to scale back burps. The Kowbucha is a probiotic complement that will be easily integrated right into a calf’s weight loss plan.
Project Climate Highlights:
- Major convening and report on dairy and livestock emissions strategies: Last spring, CLEE and the UCLA Emmett Center convened an authority panel of industry professionals, state regulators, and environmental justice advocates to debate improvements within the state’s dairy and livestock industry. This discussion provided the premise for Ahead of the Herd, a report to handle methane emissions from California’s animal agriculture and supply recommendations geared toward accelerating emissions reductions. The report looks at emissions from each manure storage and enteric fermentation (cow burps). Our report examines how California can proceed to spearhead policies that reduce emissions by increasing research funding, accelerating approvals for feed additives like red seaweed and 3-NOP, and adopting an offset protocol under the state’s cap-and-trade program.
While methane awareness is rising, so are methane emissions. 2023 can be a pivotal 12 months for methane research, policy, and implementation. Check back in January for an summary of methane policies into consideration next 12 months.