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Methane

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken (a) in England and (b) internationally to reduce the effects of methane emissions. (84239)

UK methane emissions between 1990 and 2004 fell by an estimated 50 per cent., mainly as a consequence of reductions in sectors such as waste, agriculture, coal mining and natural gas distribution.

More recycling, helped by the introduction of the landfill tax, and an increase in the capture of landfill gas for energy recovery, has led to an estimated 63 per cent. fall in landfill emissions since 1990. There has been a 40 per cent. decrease in landfill emissions since 1999, when the Government increased the landfill tax to £10 per tonne of waste. Agriculture accounts for around 41 per cent. of UK methane emissions, and emissions from this sector have fallen by an estimated 13 per cent. since 1990.

We are currently reviewing our approach to anaerobic digestion, which can help to capture and utilise emissions from manures and slurries, as part of the Government’s response to the Biomass Taskforce Report. Additionally we are continuing to fund research on options to reduce direct emissions from ruminants.

Methane emissions from coal mining fell by more than 70 per cent. between 1990 and 2004 due to the closure of coal mines as a consequence of fuel switching in the energy supply industry and UK Coal participation in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme. Methane gas extracted from mines and used as fuel has been exempt from the climate change levy since 2003. This exemption encourages the owners of mining facilities and decommissioned mines to invest in systems that capture methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

Fugitive emissions from natural gas have fallen by about 39 per cent. between 1990 and 2004. National Grid Gas, which owns and maintains the UK gas distribution network, is continuing to improve the UK gas network. Internationally, the UK is taking an active role in the international Methane to Markets Partnership, and will co-chair a new Agriculture Sub-Committee with Argentina. This will examine the scope for capturing methane from animal wastes in a cost-effective way.