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Dairy companies vow to cut methane emissions

Methane testing a cow in Canada. Livestock is responsible for about 30 percent of global methane emissions Reuters
Methane testing a cow in Canada. Livestock is responsible for about 30 percent of global methane emissions
  • Companies to report on emissions
  • Methane comes from cow burps
  • Gas considered worse than CO2

Six of the world’s largest dairy companies will soon begin disclosing their annual methane emissions as part of a new global alliance launched at the Cop28 summit in Dubai on Tuesday.  

Nestlé, Danone, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Bel Group and Lactalis will begin reporting their methane emissions by mid-2024 and will write action plans by the end of that year as part of signatories to the Dairy Methane Alliance.

Livestock is responsible for about 30 percent of global methane emissions, from sources such as manure and cow burps, according to the the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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In January, Danone pledged to cut methane emissions from its fresh milk supply chain by 30 percent by 2030 compared to a 2020 baseline.

However, companies involved in the new alliance do not need to promise to reduce their emissions by a specific amount.

Cutting human-caused methane by 45 percent this decade would keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, according to a 2021 assessment by the Climate & Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme.

On Saturday, the US’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a comprehensive plan to target methane emissions from the country’s oil and gas sector by introducing policies banning routine flaring of natural gas from new oil wells, mandating leak monitoring at well sites and compressor stations, and establishing a programme using third-party remote sensing for detecting large methane releases.

The EPA estimates these measures will yield climate and health benefits worth up to $7.6 billion a year until 2038, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of the US power sector in 2021.

Oil and natural gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the US, according to the EPA.

The US and China last month both agreed to include methane in their 2035 climate goals, the first time China has made such a pledge.

Methane is nearly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide owing to the fact that it breaks down in the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide.

It is termed a climate “super pollutant” by the EPA which says that “rapid, sharp cuts in methane can generate near-immediate climate benefits.”

On Sunday, Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber launched the oil and gas decarbonisation charter (OGDC), a global industry initiative designed to speed up climate action across the oil and gas sectors.

To date, 50 companies representing more than 40 percent of global oil production have signed the OGDC and committed to net-zero operations by 2050 at the latest, ending routine flaring by 2030 and near-zero upstream methane emissions.

“The launch of the OGDC is a great first step,” said Al Jaber.

“We need the entire industry to keep 1.5C within reach and set even stronger ambitions for decarbonisation.”

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