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Efforts to track and curb methane emissions are stepping up

Smog coming out of factory
Natalie Dmay/Pexels
Jun 18, 2022 By WGSN Insider

Methane made up 11% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, and while it remains in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, it has accounted for roughly 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times. WGSN zooms in on efforts to reduce emissions in the product design industry.

The gas is said to be between 25 and 86 times more potent than CO2 (depending on the timeframe used), which means now is the time for governments and industries to address methane and reduce emissions. Agriculture and fossil fuel are the biggest contributors, producing 41% and 35% of emissions respectively.

Tractor in the fields
Dietmar Reichle/Unsplash

Rising awareness

According to WGSN social media data, mentions of “methane” on social media have risen consistently since 2019, with “methane” and “carbon footprint” mentions peaking during key events such as the Leaders Summit on Climate in April 2021 and COP26 in November 2021.

As awareness of the issue grows, methane disclosures are likely to become more common: Amsterdam-based food brand Upfield recently released a report detailing the methane emissions in its supply chain.

“The food and drink industry has led on several sustainability issues and now we’re seeing what claims to be the first detailed methane emissions report in its supply chain from Upfield,” says Jen Creevy, Director of Food & Drink at WGSN.

“This is a big step forward in delivering more transparency to consumers, as experts agree that methane, while it has a shorter life, is a much more potent greenhouse gas – around 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Yet we don’t yet hear of many companies calling methane out. It’s a step forward and hopefully more companies will follow.”

Workers along a fruit production line
Arno Senoner/Unsplash

Product innovations

A team at MIT developed a technique that combines an inexpensive clay called zeolite with copper to control methane emissions and remove it from the air. Created to tackle methane emissions in agriculture, this development is being fast-tracked with a $2m grant from the US Department of Energy.

UK-based ZELP (Zero Emissions Livestock Project) created a device for cows that neutralises methane emissions without interfering with the cow’s natural way of life. Japanese energy company Idemitsu Kosan discovered that cashew nut husk liquid has the ability to suppress methane in the belching of cattle when mixed with feed. Called Luminap, the feed has been used at large dairy farms in Taiwan and South Korea since 2011 and hit the US in 2021.

A handful of zeolite
Zeolite is the key material in a methane-absorbing material developed by researchers at MIT/WC&P

How you can action this

Reducing methane emissions will help mitigate some of the most acute climate risks. Partner with third-party experts to audit your emissions and invest in methods to reduce them.

WGSN clients can read more of the month’s top sustainability stories in Sustainability Bulletin: June 2022. 

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