Global Meeting Puts Agricultural Methane Reductions On The Agenda

by CCAC secretariat - 24 April, 2023
Regional and global cooperation are an important multiplier to up-scale emissions reduction efforts.


Agriculture ministers from over 20 countries met last week at the first Ministerial Conference on Low Emissions Food Systems in Santiago, Chile, to discuss opportunities and cooperation to reduce methane emissions from the agriculture sector. Agriculture and food security will be significantly affected by climate change, however the agriculture sector is also the largest contributor to methane emissions, comprising 40% of anthropogenic methane emissions. 

Recent studies have shown that methane emissions are still rising. According to the Global Methane Assessment – a United Nations Environment Programme and Climate and Clean Air Coalition report – reducing agricultural methane emissions by 20-25% by 2030 is achievable with available technologies and low cost, but solutions are not yet being applied at sufficient scale. Reducing methane can actually improve crop yields and health through reducing air pollution exacerbated by methane’s contribution to tropospheric ozone – which stunts plant growth.  


Methane reductions, alongside decarbonisation efforts, are essential to reduce near-term warming and keeping the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees within reach.  Combatting global warming goes hand in hand with agricultural and labour productivity gains and thus supports ensuring food security, farmer livelihoods, and addressing climate change and other environmental crises. 

Hosted by the Ministers of Agriculture of Chile and Spain, in partnership with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), the conference was the first of its kind targeted at methane emissions in the agriculture sector.  In addition to high-level government representation at the conference from the United States, Spain, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, St Kitts and Nevis, and Burkina Faso, Brazil made a significant contribution to the conference announcing its intention to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and to present a roadmap to reducing methane emissions in its agriculture sector. During the meeting, Brazil announced its joining of the CCAC and leadership in the development of a sector roadmap within the CCAC’s Agriculture Hub. 


The meeting came as part of increased global coordination and action on methane emissions since 2021, when 150 nations signed on to the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) – a global voluntary commitment towards a collective reduction in global methane emissions by at least 30% of 2020 levels by 2030. The CCAC currently supports GMP partners to take action on reducing methane, including developing country methane roadmaps, via institutional strengthening and technical assistance and tools across all sectors. In the agriculture sector the CCAC has helped to prove key interventions in both to policy and finance. In Uruguay, where 40% of emissions come from enteric fermentation, the CCAC has provided support and tools to improve productivity by over 30% while reducing emissions and achieving sustainable production. 


If all existing targeted measures – such as improved feed, breeding, animal husbandry, manure management and agricultural waste disposal – are realised, signatories to the GMP could reduce methane emissions from the agricultural sector by around 30 million tons per year by 2030.  The conference also targeted action on food loss and waste and the opportunities stemming from circular economic approaches to sustainable agriculture. This would include simple improvements to waste and fertiliser value chains which turn agricultural waste into useable compost, while reducing the methane generated by waste decomposition, all the way to ways to divert food from becoming waste or improve cold chains to reduce food loss. For example, the CCAC is currently supporting trial projects in circular waste management in Argentina. According the GMA, the full scope of technical and behavioural changes were implemented, agricultural methane emissions could be reduced  by 65–80 million tons per year. 


“Cutting methane in the agriculture sector in order of 20-25 percent is not only achievable, but also necessary for food security reasons,” said Martina Otto, Head of the Secretariat of the Clean Air and Climate Coalition, who moderated the closing session of the conference. 


Otto added that the success of the conference highlights both the focus on solutions to harness synergies and the importance of peer-peer exchange among countries taking action on meeting their emissions reductions targets. “The CCAC is a central part of the ecosystem facilitating methane action. Both the efforts on cross-sectoral policy and planning as well as the sector work including through  the agriculture and the waste hubs have spurred action. We have been involving both state and non-state partners to share learning experiences across the policy, planning, and project implementation stages,” said Otto. 

Stakeholders interested in taking action on methane can find support through the CCAC’s sectoral hubs. CCAC provides expert assistance to policy makers and partners across all sectors, including agriculture, by engaging an extensive network of professionals covering technological options, mitigation measures funding opportunities, application of measurement tools, and policy development. 


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