Pollutant Information: Methane 

About Methane

Category: Greenhouse gases

Methane contributes to climate change due to its positive radiative forcing effect, and is the second most significant greenhouse gas in the UK after CO2. The major emitting sources in 2014 are enteric fermentation, landfilling of wastes, and leakage from the gas distribution system. Historically, coal extraction was also a very significant source of methane emissions, but this source has declined as coal-mining activity in the UK has reduced. Emissions from all major methane sources have declined, contributing to the overall reduction of 61% since 1990. Total emissions in the waste sector have decreased by 73% primarily due to reductions in emissions from landfilled waste. The reduction in emissions in this sector is responsible for 69% of the total decrease in methane emissions since 1990. Emissions from agriculture have decreased by 16% since 1990, following the trend of decreasing livestock numbers. In the energy sector, the reduced coal mining activity, and improvements to the gas distribution network have contributed to an overall decrease in emissions of 78% since 1990. Decreases in this sector have contributed 34% to the total decrease in methane emissions.

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Time series graph


Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
1994 2011 Energy - Energy Industries Reduction in coal mining activity with closure of coal mines and importation of cheap coal. Decrease in emissions
1995 2011 Energy - Fugitive Emissions from Fuels Improvements to the gas distribution network (reduction of leaks) Decrease in emissions
1990 2011 Waste Increased methane recovery systems and reductions in the amount of waste disposed of at landfill sites. Decrease in emissions