Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
18 Oct 2022 Video Climate Action

What's the deal with methane?

Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Colourless, odourless and invisible to the naked eye, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It is responsible for more than 25 per cent of the global warming we are experiencing today. Due to its structure, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide (CO2), making it 80 times more harmful than COfor 20 years after it is released.

Cutting methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 could help us meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The energy sector (oil, gas, and coal) releases enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere. The agriculture sector is also a major emitter, particularly from livestock such as cattle and cultivation of certain foods such as rice. Waste is the third most common man-made source of methane, as bacteria break down organic matter in landfills.

The good news is that since much of the methane release is caused by human activity, its reduction is considered the low hanging fruit of climate mitigation. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is at the forefront of the global effort to cut down on methane emissions.

The International Methane Emissions Observatory launched in 2021, catalogues discharges from the fossil fuel sector. It will also soon start to monitor methane from waste and agricultural releases. The IMEO aims to create a public database of empirically verified methane emissions to inform sound policymaking.

IMEO’s data also helps track progress of the Global Methane Pledge. This is an initiative that brings together over 100 countries committed to reducing their collective methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

UNEP also spearheads the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, a voluntary commitment by companies to measure and report their methane emissions from sources like pipelines, storage tanks and offshore oil platforms.

UNEP also fosters high-level commitments through advocacy work and supports countries to implement measures that reduce methane emissions through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). The CCAC is also a core implementer of the Global Methane Pledge.


UNEP is at the front in support of the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature rise well below 2°C and aiming - to be safe - for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To do this, UNEP has developed a Six-Sector Solution roadmap to reducing emissions across sectors in line with the Paris Agreement commitments and in pursuit of climate stability. The six sectors are Energy; Industry; Agriculture and Food; Forests and Land Use; Transport, and Buildings and Cities. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November 2022 will focus on adaptation, finance and a just transition – and you can do your part by acting now on your own consumption or speaking up to voice your concerns.