Australia pledges to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 at COP28

Australia pledges to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 at COP28
  • PublishedDecember 6, 2023

By mid-2024 Danone, Nestle, General Mills, Lactalis USA, Kraft Heinz and Bel Group will begin reporting emissions and develop action plans, though won’t set specific reduction targets as a group. 

Cutting methane emissions is considered a key part of limiting global warming using possible solutions like feed additives for livestock.  

Australia has signed up to the voluntary global methane pledge to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. 

Mr Elsom is the boss of Australian green technology company Sea Forest, which is developing a feed supplement – using a red seaweed native to Australia – that can slash the methane emissions of cows and sheep.

“So, when we talk about greenhouse gases, the United Nations puts them into what they call GWP, or global warming potential, and they benchmark all gases against carbon.

“Methane is a gas, it’s a short-lived atmospheric gas, and in the first year that it’s emitted into the atmosphere it has 120 times’ the warming effect of carbon dioxide.”

Role of agriculture in methane emissions

Sam Elsom is not alone in his focus on methane at COP28.

Already, there’s been a flurry of announcements and initiatives aimed at trying to dramatically reduce the amount of methane escaping into the atmosphere each year.

On Sunday, a group of some of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers, led by American behemoth Exxon, promised to eliminate methane emissions from their own operations by 2030.

It followed a commitment by the US to slash America’s methane emissions by 80 per cent within 15 years, largely by capping leaky oil and gas wells.

Later in the conference, the role of agriculture in generating methane emissions is also expected to come into the spotlight.

Susie Smith is the head of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents many of the country’s biggest energy producers and users.

She agrees that methane emissions are a problem that needs solving.

However, she says they are by no means the only problem.

“I think there’s two challenges in this space,” Ms Smith said.

“One is globally methane hasn’t been particularly well reported.

“Australia is an exception in that regard. It doesn’t mean there isn’t areas we can’t continue to sense-check and be more transparent on.

“Then in terms of reduction within Australia, I keep coming back to the principle that it’s not about just reducing methane, we have to reduce all of our greenhouse gas emissions.

“And if you spend too much time focusing on one or the other, we’re not going to solve the problem. Net zero is net zero.”

Queensland falls short

On the sidelines of the talks, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles was upbeat.

Queensland is one of the biggest sources of methane emissions in Australia courtesy of its coal-seam gas industry, its coal mines and the state’s massive cattle herd.

Despite this, he stresses resource companies are trying to prevent fugitive methane emissions.

“Similarly, our agriculture department is really working at the cutting edge of how they can work with our farmers to reduce their carbon and other greenhouse gas footprints of their food production,” Mr Miles said.

“At the end of the day, food production is going to continue to be very important.

“So we need to find ways to do that with a lower greenhouse gas footprint.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles wears a hat and white shirt
Deputy Premier Steven Miles was at the side lines of COP28. (ABC News)

Asked whether enough was being done to reduce the amount of methane entering the atmosphere, Mr Miles acknowledged that efforts were still falling short.

“I think across addressing climate in every regard, we need to do more. We need to redouble our efforts and that’s government, that’s all industries, everyone who’s making an impact,” he said.

For Sea Forest boss Sam Elsom, many, if not most, of the technologies and methods to prevent methane emissions in the first place were already available.

He said dealing urgently with the problem offered one of the surest paths to limiting global warming to the goal of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“In the context of methane I think agriculture is like low-hanging fruit,” Mr Elsom said.


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