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A methane action plan for Wales?

06 Dec 2023 4 minute read

Bleddyn Lake – Campaigns and Development Manager, Friends of the Earth Cymru

The next round of the international climate change talks (COP28) are taking place in the United Arab Emirates between November 30 and December 12 – and interestingly, methane will be a focus of increasing attention at these talks.

Methane is a short lived but hugely important and nasty greenhouse gas. Over a 20 year period for example, it is around 80 times more potent at heating our climate than carbon dioxide (CO2).

It also accounts for around 30% of global heating since pre-industrial times. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) states that ‘Human-caused methane emissions could be reduced by as much as 45 per cent within the decade.

This would avert nearly 0.3°C of global warming by 2045, helping to limit global temperature rise to 1.5˚C and putting the planet on track to achieve the Paris Agreement targets.

Crop losses

Every year, the subsequent reduction in ground-level ozone would also prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat and 25 million tonnes of crop losses.’

One positive thing that came out of the UN climate change talks in Glasgow in 2021 (COP26) was the Global Methane Pledge.

The US and the EU led on this Pledge, which now has well over 150 countries signed up to it. The pledge itself commits countries to work together to collectively reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

50 of these countries have developed, or are now developing, their own methane action plans. What sort of activities are responsible for producing methane? Methane is released from a variety of sources.

The industries responsible for most methane emissions are oil, coal, gas, agriculture, waste and waste water.

We would like to see Welsh Government draw up its own Methane Action Plan.

Whilst different Welsh Government strategies are in general quite positive and will help to reduce all types of climate emissions in the sectors they cover, they could also miss out a wide variety of other sources of methane emissions and they need to be joined up.

A Methane Action Plan sitting alongside these existing plans would make sure it is all co-ordinated and seeks, as far as possible, to make sure we are dealing with ALL sources of methane emissions.


Some of them will be easier to deal with than others but that can be a good thing as they then become some of the ‘low hanging fruit’ which can be dealt with quickly hopefully.

Without this sort of plan, action risks being piecemeal, not joined up and at risk of missing out some important sources of methane emissions like old underground mines.

Just to make a point as to why this is important, recent data shows that in Wales, climate emissions from underground mines (abandoned) were 269.42 Kilotonnes CO2 equivalent (KtCO2e) in 2021, compared to surface mining activities 11.11 KtCO2e and then underground mines on 35 KtCO2e.

So that looks like old abandoned mines emit 5.8 times the amount of climate emissions as opencast and drift mining combined. And this is methane!

Other countries have drawn up their own methane action plans, the Swedish one for example could provide a nice blueprint for Wales.

There is a definite opportunity here to be innovative and bring together expertise both from within Wales but also from further afield to harness existing ideas, thinking, developments and technology to put in place a plan to cut methane emissions in Wales.

Science tells us that global climate emissions will need to peak by 2025 and then to reduce rapidly thereafter if we are to have any hope of avoiding even worse climate change effects.

Given methane is such a potent climate gas, it would seem a bit of a no-brainer to develop a proper and co-ordinated plan to deal with methane as a matter of urgency.
A credible overall national strategy to reduce climate emissions needs to include a methane action plan.

And we need it quickly!

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