At COP 26 in Glasgow 100 nations including the United States committed to cutting methane emissions 30% by 2030 – one of the more significant developments from the conference. The pledged cuts would account for 0.2 degrees Celsius of avoided warming.
Methane is currently the second most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere behind CO2. Though it is less abundant and stays in the atmosphere for a shorter time, methane is approximately 80x more potent than CO2 in its ability to trap heat, making it an important target for emissions reductions to mitigate climate change in the short term. It can also be viewed as a low-hanging fruit, since emitted methane from the oil and gas industries and from landfills can be captured at its source and sold in established gas markets (heating gas, electricity generation, LNG), whereas the market for captured C02 and products containing it is still early in its development.
The oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions, waste management is the second largest industrial source and enteric fermentation from livestock is also a major source. All three sources of methane are touched on in the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan released by the Biden Administration Nov. 2, 2021.
The administration’s approach to landfill methane thus far has focused on updating and implementing a 2016 rule on landfill methane lowering the threshold after which gas collection systems are required by law. This rule will expand the requirement to capture landfill methane to 93 additional municipal solid waste landfills. EPA monitors gas capture projects at municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills countrywide. Out of 2,600 MSW landfills tracked by the EPA database, 548 have active gas capture projects or projects under development. A further 483 MSW landfills are flagged as good candidates for the implementation of landfill gas capture systems. The Methane Reductions Action Plan notes that EPA is also pushing its voluntary landfill methane outreach program (providing technical support at landfills) to achieve a national goal of 70 percent methane emissions capture at landfills nationally and that it remains committed to a 50% reduction in food waste sent to landfills by 2030.
At the time of writing, the aforementioned update and implementation of the 2016 landfill methane rule is the only regulatory action aimed at landfill methane reductions, but WTS will continue to monitor and report on the situation.