Attempts by the meat and dairy industry to change the way in which methane emissions are measured should be resisted by policy makers, according to a new report.
Campaign group Changing Markets Foundation said using the GWP* metric to measure the heating impact of short lived greenhouse gases like methane rather than the current GWP100 metric could allow big polluters to minimise their methane emissions and avoid climate action.
It calculated that Fonterra, the largest dairy exporter in the world, could claim no net warming with a 17% reduction in emissions by 2030 using GWP*. New Zealand, meanwhile, could claim to be methane negative (minus 1 million tonnes of methane a year) with a 10% reduction in the country’s methane emissions by 2038 using GWP*.
GWP100 is the current accepted metric for measuring greenhouse gases and is used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but critics argue it does not account for the removal of short-lived gases like methane from the atmosphere and therefore does not give an accurate representation of the emissions from ruminant livestock such as sheep and cattle who produce methane as part of the digestive process.
In June, the UK National Farmers Union (NFU) formalised its support for the adoption of the GWP* metric which has been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford and in New Zealand.
Changing Markets Foundation, however, said there were significant problems with its application, noting that since GWP* measures the rate of change in emissions, countries which increase livestock herds from a low base – often in the Global South – would be viewed as more polluting than major emitters with large but relatively stable herds. Moreover, corporations with high but stable methane emissions could claim to be climate neutral or even climate negative based on minor reductions in methane emissions.
“GWP* will allow the world’s biggest methane polluter to downplay emissions and dodge climate action,” said Nusa Urbancic, director of Changing Markets Foundation. “Reducing methane is the fastest way to limit global warming – governments need to seize this opportunity and reject GWP*.”