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How is the UK progressing on methane commitments?

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

4 min read

The Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee was appointed to consider the environment and climate change. Baroness Sheehan chaired their recent inquiry into methane and outlines what impact reducing emissions will have on the climate

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, eighty times more potent than CO2 over a twenty-year period. Moreover, it has been responsible for a full third of climate warming since the start of the industrial revolution. It also affects air quality because it can lead to ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.

Methane is more potent than CO2, but it is much shorter-lived in the atmosphere. Many scientists have highlighted that this means action on methane now can have significant near-term effects and give us valuable time to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

However, its concentration in the atmosphere is rising globally – and tackling this is crucial to all the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended pathways to limiting temperature increases.

At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, the United Kingdom was a key supporter of the initiative by the European Union and the United States to realise the Global Methane Pledge “to keep a 1.5C future within reach” and agreeing to take voluntary actions to reduce global methane emissions by 30 per cent compared to 2020 levels by 2030. The Global Methane Pledge is gathering momentum and now has 155 signatories. Yet we’ve heard concerns that the UK has been slow to fulfil its commitments and has not fully embraced the leadership role within its capabilities to share best practice and support developing countries to meet their own commitments.

The Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee launched our inquiry on methane in March 2024 to examine the UK’s progress on its international commitment through the Global Methane Pledge, and at home through the Methane Memorandum.

The Committee’s inquiry has three main aims:

  • to understand the impact of methane on climate change and warming, and the main benefits of delivering methane reduction targets
  • to explore the UK’s progress on its existing commitments to reduce domestic methane emissions, and what further progress can be made
  • to understand the significance of the UK’s contributions to reducing methane in a global context, and what UK action, and what kinds of action, will have the greatest impact.

The three biggest-emitting UK sectors are agriculture, waste management and fuel supply. We have taken evidence from each in turn, hearing the perspectives of national farming groups, oil and gas operators, and waste management companies alongside climate campaigners.

“Action on methane now can have significant near-term effects, and give us valuable time to cut carbon dioxide emissions”

We’ve also heard from leading academics and climate scientists. Taking in this breadth of evidence from all quarters in public oral evidence hearings is important – action on these issues will only be effective if we understand the priorities and concerns of all those that government policy stands to affect.

The strength of committees is in being able to get all the key voices in one room and have a constructive discussion to find the best way forward. As a cross-party group of members, debating the issues and coming to a consensus shows a way forward is possible. There will always be trade-offs and choices. But often, there are also unexplored synergies: our evidence so far has illuminated how new technologies can not only help us capture methane that would otherwise be emitted from oil and gas operations or cattle manure, for example, but use it as fuel and redirect it for economic benefit. Our focus is on where this innovation is happening, what further support it needs from government, and how it can make a difference in achieving our climate goals.

The committee has now finished taking evidence and will consider its conclusions.

Follow the inquiry on the Environment and Climate Change Committee pages on the House of Lords website, or by following @HLEnviroClimate on X.

This article was originally published in The Path To Net Zero supplement circulated alongside The House magazine. To find out more visit The Path To Net Zero hub.

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