Delayed national methane plan released

China has finally published its plan to control the country’s methane emissions, a year later than scheduled.

At the COP26 UN climate conference in 2021, China and the US released a joint statement in which China committed to producing a “comprehensive and ambitious national action plan on methane” before COP27 in 2022. With COP28 just around the corner, China has now done so. Both countries have said they will control and reduce methane emissions during the 2020s as “a matter of necessity”.

China, the world’s largest methane emitter, plans to control these emissions by: establishing a thorough system for monitoring and reporting emissions; capturing and utilising methane from coal mines and oilfields; and reducing emissions from industry, agriculture and municipal waste. 

The plan also states that China will burn any captured methane that it cannot utilise; the burning of methane produces CO2, which by its nature contributes less to near-term global heating than methane. 

Firm methane emission-reduction targets are included for different industries to guide future actions. For example, China is aiming for the utilisation rate of methane from coal mines to reach six billion cubic metres per year by 2025. Over 80% of the methane captured from livestock and poultry farming will be comprehensively utilised by 2025, rising to over 85% by 2030 – China says this methane will be used for domestic gas, electricity, and heating purposes. China has also committed to eliminating 90% of methane emissions from municipal sewage sludge disposal by 2025.

China also emphasises the measures it will take to enhance synergies between air-pollution and methane-emissions management. At the same time, it will encourage methane-control projects to obtain funding from climate investment and finance, and participate in voluntary carbon markets.

The plan does not however specify a target for the total amount of methane emissions to be avoided. Nor does it include any timelines.

According to the plan, China will also actively promote collaboration with and participate in the global management of methane. This is noteworthy, considering the current international political atmosphere and the timing of the document’s publication: the last day of the meeting between Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, and John Kerry, his US counterpart.

This publication was described as “an opening play, rather than a final offer” by one veteran climate policy diplomat, according to the Financial Times.

Read China Dialogue’s analysis of how China will control its methane emissions.