This impact story is from our 2021 annual report.
SEI co-authored the Global Methane Assessment report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) in May. The report provided a strong foundation for the launch of the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in November.
Methane is a powerful but short-lived climate pollutant that accounts for a substantial fraction of the net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era, with the second highest impact after CO2.
It is vital to take decisive action to rapidly reduce methane emissions from energy and agriculture to achieve near-term climate gains within this decade. Doing so is probably the single most effective strategy to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C within reach at the same time as it yields co-benefits, including better public health and agricultural productivity.
The report highlights that a 45% reduction in global methane emissions by 2030 compared to a 2020 baseline, equivalent to 180 million metric tons per year, is the most cost-effective pathway to limit global temperature increases in the near term. Its effects are so potent that without reducing it substantially, it is not possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Improved health outcomes, increased crop yields
A 45% reduction would avert nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s and other impacts on human health and crop yields, according to the modelling undertaken in the Global Methane Assessment. This is due to fewer health problems related to heat stress for people working outdoors, as well as the fact that methane is an important precursor of polluting ground-level ozone that affects health and crop yields.
A 45% reduction in methane would prevent about:
- 255 000 premature deaths
- 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits
- 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat
- 26 million tonnes in global crop losses.
Pledge announced at COP26
Following the publication of the Global Methane Assessment and engagement through the work of SEI and its partners, especially the CCAC, the US and EU announced the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in November, which aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% in 2030 compared to 2020 levels. A total of 111 countries signed on to the Pledge, representing nearly 50% of global anthropogenic methane emissions.
Commitment to cut methane emissions
As well as committing to the 30% reduction in global methane emissions, the Pledge will convene annual ministerial meetings to review progress. Participants signing the Pledge agree to collectively take voluntary action to reduce global methane emissions, which could reduce warming by 0.2°C by 2050. They also commit to using the highest tier of IPCC good practice inventory methodologies, as well as continuing to improve the accuracy, transparency, consistency, comparability and completeness of national greenhouse gas inventory reporting under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement and providing greater transparency in key sectors.
"One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade is – to keep 1.5 degrees in reach – is reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible."
– US President Joe Biden, speaking at the Global Methane Pledge event at COP26
Delivering on the Pledge will require strengthening international initiatives to reduce methane emissions, advancing technical and policy work and recognizing the essential roles that the private sector, development banks, financial institutions and philanthropy play in implementing the Pledge. More than half of global methane emissions stem from human-caused activities in the agriculture (about 40%), fossil fuel (about 35%) and waste (about 20%) sectors. Currently available measures identified in the Assessment could reduce emissions from these sectors by 45% by 2030.
What happens next?
The impact of the Global Methane Assessment was driven by its focus on multiple benefits, continued engagement with decision makers by different partners, and substantial media coverage.
A co-author of the Assessment, SEI Research Leader Johan Kuylenstierna, points out that the Pledge can go further: “The Global Methane Assessment identified that we have the ability to reduce methane emissions by about 10% more than what is set out in the Pledge, which will more firmly ensure that we shift into a 1.5°C pathway. One way to make sure of this is for all major emitters to engage with methane reduction and for China and the US have signed a separate agreement to collaborate on climate change.”
More than US$300 million of philanthropic funds have been pledged to help countries to implement the Pledge. Countries will need support to develop detailed road maps to implement the measures and overcome financial and other barriers to ensure that emissions are reduced by 2030.
Strategy for action
Priority for changeGovernment plans to tackle climate change with multiple benefits
The Assessment shows that human-caused methane emissions can be reduced by up to 45% this decade, averting nearly 0.3°C of global warming by 2045 and consistent with the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Type of outcomeChanging agendas, improving decisions
A total of 111 countries have signed on to the Pledge, representing nearly 50% of global anthropogenic methane emissions and over two-thirds of global GDP, and agreeing to collectively take voluntary actions to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.