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Methane

Volume 406: debated on Friday 23 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the estimate of the proportion of methane emissions arising from fossil fuel extraction, set out in paragraph 2.8 of the 22nd report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; and what action she will take. [114717]

As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, the UK is required annually to compile an inventory of emissions by sources and removals by sinks of the greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol.The latest published inventory is for 2001. This shows that fugitive emissions of methane from fossil fuel extraction represent 29.5 per cent. of total methane emissions in the UK. This is broadly consistent with the figure of 28 per cent. quoted in the RCEP report.Fugitive emissions of methane in the UK have fallen by half between 1990 and 2001 mainly due to a large reduction in methane emissions from coal mining as coal production has declined. Leakage rates from the natural gas transmission and distribution network have improved as old mains are replaced leading to a reduction in emissions from the network of 14 per cent. over the period. Other fugitive emissions of methane arise from smaller sources, such as venting and flaring from offshore platforms.Methane emissions from abandoned coal mines, for which there is no internationally agreed estimation methodology, are currently not included in the UK inventory. The Department has recently commissioned a research project aiming to produce a verifiable estimates with the aim of inclusion in the inventory in future.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the findings of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution"s 22nd report, "Energy-the Changing Climates", in paragraph 2.8 on page 18, on the contribution of methane gases from landfill sites to the greenhouse effect. [114963]

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution"s 22nd report estimates that landfill methane emissions represent 7 to 8 per cent. of total global methane emissions from natural and anthropogenic sources. This is consistent with figures reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 1994 report on Climate Change. If natural sources are excluded, landfills contribute an estimated 11 per cent. to total global anthropogenic methane emissions, or some 2.4 per cent. of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions as a whole.Landfill emissions are generally higher for developed countries because of the greater amount of waste arising and because conditions within the landfills are more anaerobic. The latest published UK greenhouse gas emissions estimates are for 2001. These show that methane emissions from landfill sites represent 22 per cent. of total anthropogenic methane emissions, or 1.6 per cent. of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Historical data show that the UK ratio of landfill to total methane is comparable to that in other EU countries.

Methane emissions from landfill sites in the UK have declined by 57 per cent. between 1990 and 2001 because of the implementation of methane recovery systems. This trend is likely to continue as the UK Government work towards compliance with the EU Landfill Directive. The Directive requires that all landfill gas is collected and treated, and sets progressive targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill, with the ultimate target of diverting 65 per cent. of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled in 1995 from this disposal route by 2020.